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College credit for Wal-Mart work: Should doing a job count toward degrees?

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"It's not what you did, but what you know," says Pamela Tate, president of the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL) in Chicago, which helps colleges assess the educational value of on-the-job and other life experiences.

About 8 in 10 colleges offer some credit for "prior learning" in the military or as demonstrated in exams in a variety of fields, a CAEL survey found. Sixty-six percent review portfolios that students put together to show other types of college-level learning, according to the survey.

Different colleges set different standards for such credits, however, so to what extent Wal-Mart employees will be able to transfer them to other institutions is an open question.

"Giving college credit for working at [a place like] Wal-Mart is not something that's typically been done," says Janet Poley, president of the American Distance Education Consortium in Lincoln, Neb.

It depends on how the Wal-Mart program is implemented, but, Ms. Poley says, "I don't think there's going to be a high respect, nor, if you move to another institution, [a high level of] acceptance of credit, for at least some of the [job categories] they're talking about."

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