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November 6, 2012

Lumina Foundation Awards SUNY Empire State College $500,000 Grant to Create SUNY REAL

Project Seeks New Ways to Speed Time to Degree and Reduce Costs for Students that Are Scalable Systemwide

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Nov. 7, 2012) SUNY Empire State College has been awarded a grant by Lumina Foundation to develop SUNY REAL, Recognition of Experiential and Academic Learning, a new pathway to degree completion for students with learning acquired outside of the formal higher education system through open-education resources (OERs).

SUNY REAL, a two-year, $500,000 project, has the potential to expand capacity and access to higher education, increase the number of college graduates, decrease time to completion, reduce costs and assure quality.

The project will be a scaling up of the college’s nationally recognized programs for assessing college-level learning acquired outside of the formal higher education system; specifically, the project seeks to design, develop, deploy and disseminate a methodology to award credit for OER courses. Facilitating credit transfer and degree completion also are important aspects of the project.

“SUNY REAL is a unique opportunity for military veterans, workers, and others to translate their life experiences into college credit,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “This project will decrease the time to degree, save students money and help them advance their careers. We are profoundly grateful to Lumina Foundation for its continued support of SUNY’s college completion and workforce development initiatives, and I commend Empire State College for making SUNY REAL a possibility for all of SUNY’s campuses in the future.”

“I am very grateful to Lumina Foundation for this award, but receiving a prestigious grant from Lumina is only the beginning,” said college Acting President Meg Benke. “Now, we start the important work of establishing a scalable framework that takes a hard look at open-education resources to determine whether or not they represent college-level learning.”

“The ability to bridge learning from outside academe to a college degree connects solidly with Lumina Foundation’s goal to ‘increase the proportion of Americans with high quality degrees to 60 percent by the year 2025,’” said Holly Zanville, program director at Lumina Foundation.

Designed to be scalable and to serve all 64 SUNY campuses, SUNY REAL focuses on four key areas:

  • assessment structures to evaluate verifiable, college-level, prior experiential and emergent learning for college credit
  • recruitment and training of faculty and equivalent field experts for assessments
  • transcription of the approved college-level learning
  • ongoing research on its practices to ensure quality and consistency, and a link to the wider community of practice of noncollegiate learning assessment.

 “The college’s undergraduate model meets the learner where she or he is, and dramatically diminishes the need for him or her to repeat courses and spend money on learning content and skills that they already know,” said Robert J. Clougherty, acting vice provost for the college’s newly created Office of Research, Innovation and Open Education.

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