Academic/Credential/Degree Pathways

A sequence of courses recommended for successful completion of a degree, diploma, credential, or certificate.


Advanced Placement (AP) Exam

A series of standardized exams developed by the College Board and taken by high school students. College credit can be awarded based on exam score. The exams usually follow standardized high school courses generally recognized as being equivalent to undergraduate college courses.[i]



A combination of on-the-job training and related instruction in which workers learn the practical and theoretical aspects of a highly skilled occupation. Apprenticeship programs may be sponsored by individual employers, joint employer and labor groups, and/or employer associations (and/or the federal government).[ii] There are several different types of apprenticeships including non-college apprenticeships, college-connected apprenticeships, and degree apprenticeships. They are defined elsewhere in this Glossary.


Articulation Agreement

A mechanism by which credit and credentials are recognized and awarded through pre-arranged agreements. Articulation agreements can include analogous courses between higher education institutions or can be used as a mechanism for higher education institutions to accept industry certifications or give credit for other learning or competency obtained outside of the higher education institution in question.[iii]


Career Pathways

Specified arrangements that allow low-skilled youth and adults to combine work and education while obtaining in-demand postsecondary credentials.[iv]



Non-degree postsecondary awards that typically require less time to complete than degrees.[v]


College-Connected Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships administered in part by an employer and a postsecondary institution, whereby the postsecondary institution grants academic credit for a portion or all of the classroom and/or on-the-job learning component of an apprenticeship facilitated by an employer.[vi]


College Level Examination Program (CLEP) Exams

Tests offered by the College Board and designed to measure college-level competence achieved outside the college classroom. Course credit is given to students earning a satisfactory score on the CLEP exam indicating successful mastery of course material.[vii]


Competency-Based Education (CBE)

An approach to teaching and learning that focuses on the competencies (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that students must master rather than the amount of time they have spent in class (as measured by credit hours).[viii]


Competency-Based Learning (CBL)

A form of instruction that emphasizes the acquisition, application, and mastery of knowledge rather than classroom seat time. CBL is a broad category that includes learning acquired via apprenticeships and individual competency-based courses; and that can be recognized by Prior Learning Assessment, challenge exams, and more.


Credit for Prior Learning (CPL)

A process by which college-level knowledge and skills acquired outside of the college classroom are validated and credentialed.[ix]



Compilations of institutional decisions on equivalencies accepted for different types of learning originating outside higher education.[x]


Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES) Subject Standardized Tests (DSSTs)

Examinations developed by the Chauncy Group International and administered by Prometric that allow a student to demonstrate proficiency of college level knowledge and skills. While originally developed for military service men and women and provided free of charge, the tests are now available for civilians to take as well on a fee basis.[xi]


Degree Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships that are designed to lead to an associate or bachelor’s degree. Community colleges typically deliver the classroom component, and students receive academic credit for technical on-the-job learning.[xii]


Digital Badges

Acknowledgement of specific skills and achievements awarded by adult training centers, postsecondary institutions, employers, occupational agencies, professional associations, and other types of organizations to learners.[xiii]


Direct Assessment

A higher education institutional practice of directly measuring student knowledge and learning, rather than linking it to seat time and grades.[xiv]


Industry Certification

A credential awarded by a certifying body, often an industry association or trade group, based on an examination process assessing whether an individual has acquired the designated knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform a specific job.[xv]


Institutional Exam or Course Challenge Exams

An examination for a particular course that an academic program or department may utilize to give students credit for a course. A student typically engages directly with an individual program or department to learn about the availability and cost of institutional course examinations.


International Baccalaureate Programs (IB)

An internationally accepted standard curriculum for entry into institutions of higher education. Many US institutions award college credit for the IB Diploma Program, depending on the final exam score in individual subjects.[xvi]



Credentials that are mandated by law for workers in specific occupations and must be renewed periodically.[xvii]


Locally Evaluated Industry and Workplace Credit

A process by which individual postsecondary institutions evaluate and award credit for noncollegiate instructional programs, such as those for industry certification, professional licensure, apprenticeship, and other local workplace training that demonstrate competency required for completion of degree or certificate programs.[xviii]



A replacement for the term “minority” that recognizes that to be a “minority” student is a status which is socially constructed.[xix]


National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS): 

An organization that coordinates teams of college faculty evaluators and subject matter experts to conduct extensive reviews of education and training programs offered outside of the traditional college classroom and translates them into college credit equivalencies.[xx]


Non-Credit Training

Workforce-oriented training that does not count towards college credits and is usually oriented towards non-traditional students.[xxi]


Portfolio Assessment/Review Credit

A process by which individual faculty, departments or schools determine how much credit to award a student based on a review of a portfolio prepared by the student to demonstrate learning acquired outside of the classroom and that is relevant to the student’s educational program. A portfolio course may be offered by the institution to assist the student in preparing a quality portfolio.[xxii]


Transfer Pathways

Arrangements that set and sequence courses and/or competencies needed for students who begin their postsecondary education in one institution and wish to complete it in another. Transfer pathways are most commonly applied to movement from the community college to four-year sector.  [xxiii]


UExcel Exams

Examinations for college credit offered by Excelsior College in New York. These were formerly known as “Regents College Exams,” “ACT/PEP Exams,” and the “Excelsior College Examination Program (ECE).”


Work-Based Learning

An instructional strategy whereby learning tasks occur in a workplace.[xxiv]





[iii] American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO),







[x] Lumina Foundation, 2020, forthcoming.









[xix] Benitez, M., Jr. (2010). Resituating culture centers within a social justice framework: Is there room for examining Whiteness? In L. D. Patton (Ed.), Culture centers in higher education: Perspectives on identity, theory, and practice (pp. 119-134). Sterling, VA: Stylus.