Prior learning assessment, or PLA, saves students time and money while they’re pursuing their degrees. The practice of awarding credit and certifications for prior experience and training, including that received in the military, is an especially appropriate way to reward military veterans for their service and support their personal and professional advancement.

The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education in Montana in 2016 received funding from Strada Education NetworkSM, then known as USA Funds®, to expand prior learning assessment across the state.

In 2017 we’re undertaking a major effort to reinforce the initial positive connections with veterans and others that were established as a result of that funding.

As part of this Strada Education-sponsored effort, we’ve connected with Montana University System veterans’ offices and statewide community veterans’ support agencies. Now we’ll offer training for campus and community representatives and for veterans, to further their understanding of:

  • Joint service transcripts, which provide a description of military schooling and work history.
  • Applying learning acquired through military training and/or occupations toward a higher education credential.

Strada Education has supported groups that are creating and implementing policies for PLA among our campuses. According to those policies, MUS will review training and education as evaluated by the American Council on Education to determine what is appropriate for use toward specific degrees veterans are seeking. Accepting prior learning for credits only as needed will help lessen any negative impact PLA could have on individual students’ financial aid eligibility.

Additionally, MUS is building on a spring 2016 financial literacy outreach for veterans and their families. That effort assisted 167 veterans and their families in making the transition to their lives as students and beyond.

This year features financial education sessions in new locations, as well as in areas of continuing need, for veterans and other Montana adult learners who were unable to participate in last year’s events. We’re also inviting audiences such as first-generation college students and Native American students.

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The effort assisted 167 veterans and their families in making the transition to their lives as students and beyond.

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The financial literacy training includes information about opportunities such as credit for prior learning as potential avenues for adult students to save time and money toward a degree.

These financial education programs across Montana foster an understanding of what a veteran, or other student, may be facing financially. The training takes into account the many technical aspects of a student’s collegiate experience — such as admissions, advising, registration, the billing process, education abroad, and financial aid — along with the various landscapes of their personal lives — including families to provide for; multiple jobs; extracurricular activities; and mental, emotional and physical health issues.

During May — Military Appreciation Month — it’s important to note that connecting with veterans and other students through these PLA policy and financial literacy training efforts is helping them maximize the benefits of their education. As one student who took part in the financial training told us, the program “will help you change your life … and it is so very simple. But most importantly it gives you the opportunity to better yourself professionally and personally.”