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Published: 11/16/2009

Midwestern states study college-credit exchange program to promote degree completion

ASSOCIATED PRESS

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A dozen Midwestern states are studying the creation of a college-credit exchange that could make it easier for college dropouts to finally complete their degrees.

The project would create an electronic database where people could post documentation about the college credits they have earned from various institutions, their work training and other relevant educational experiences.

Colleges and universities then essentially would bid for the opportunity to enroll those students by indicating how many credits they would accept, what additional courses would be needed to complete their degrees and how much it would cost.

"This would be a one-stop shop where persons from throughout the 12-state region could deposit their credits," Larry Isaak, president of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, said Monday. Institutions then would "see if they have programs that might match in helping those students finish a certificate or associate or bachelor's degree."

The Midwestern coalition is composed of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The research is being financed by a $100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Isaak said the group hopes to decide by next fall whether to create the multistate college-credit exchange. Still to be determined is whether there is enough interest from potential students, how the site would be funded and how higher education institutions would access it.

More than 2.1 million residents of states within the Midwestern coalition have some higher education but lack a college degree, according to the Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based entity that seeks to expand access to higher education.

Nationally, about one of every five adults aged 25-64 has some college experience but no postsecondary education degree, according to a report last year by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

If the U.S. were to continue at its current college graduation pace, some higher education advocates estimate it would face a shortage of 16 million college-degree workers by 2025.

"There are a lot of folks out there that have some college credits. If we can figure out a way to complete those, that's the first step at getting at that shortage of degrees," said Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, who was chairman of the Midwestern coalition last year when it began discussing a college-credit exchange.



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