How to Earn a College Degree Faster and for Less

Brand Story – Blue Mountain Community College helps jump-start your degree with credit for prior learning.

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When Kylara Lewis left the U.S. army after more than eight years of service, she started looking into educational programs that would help her start a new career as quickly as possible. “I was a diesel mechanic and I jumped out of airplanes,” she says. “It was definitely a big change to do something different.” 

Lewis discovered that students at Blue Mountain Community College can get credit for prior learning, including the skills and military credits she earned through military service, so she enrolled. She graduated from BMCC in 2021 and moved on to bachelor’s and master’s programs. “I was essentially able to get things done in less time and for less money,” she says.

Melinda Platt

At the core of BMCC’s credit for prior learning (CPL) option is an understanding that students learn in different ways through a variety of experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom. “When we think about college, we think about term by term, class by class,” says Melinda Platt, a BMCC business faculty member and CPL lead. “This is a different avenue for some credits. We have increased these options for students to earn credit faster and less expensively.” 

Students like Lewis with significant backgrounds can turn industry credentials like military service, workplace experience, or apprenticeship into credits. “We have students with a lot of skills who were in the workforce and realized they needed a degree to advance,” says Platt. “They can use their prior knowledge to earn their degree and focus on the classes that they don’t have as much experience in.”

But work experience isn’t the only path. Just this year, BMCC expanded CPL options to include skills and knowledge tests. Students can now earn credits through exams written by faculty in the business, agriculture, and science departments. If they’re well-versed in Microsoft Office or they know how to drive a tractor, they can test out of courses that teach those competencies while still earning course credits.

BMCC is also an official testing site for the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. Students can now earn credits for a variety of courses such as Spanish language based on their CLEP scores. 

Another option that BMCC recently introduced is the prior learning assessment portfolio within the Business Administration Department. For half the tuition of a regular course, students can work closely with a faculty member to create a portfolio that showcases their work and earns course credit through a comprehensive review. This works especially well for entrepreneurs or students who have substantial workplace knowledge in the business field. 

“The biggest goal is to save students time and money,” says Platt. “They have the talents, skills, and knowledge, and we want them to be able to put those toward a degree.”

Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.