Business, News

North Shore Community College is up for an award

North Shore Community College’s 40-year history and results with giving credit for prior learning was recognized nationally as one of 10 community college programs nationwide to be named a finalist for the prestigious 2018 Bellwether Award in the Instructional Programs & Service Category.

The Bellwether Awards are given annually in three categories to community colleges that have implemented cutting-edge, trendsetting and innovative programs with demonstrated success. NSCC was invited to present on its program at the Community Colleges Futures Assembly 2018 National Policy Summit “Addressing the Adult Learner” in January.

“This is a tremendous honor for NSCC to be selected one in 10 of over 1,200 nominated programs,” said NSCC President Patricia A. Gentile. “Many kudos go to the college’s Academic Affairs Division and especially to Dr. Cristy Sugarman and Dr. Karen Hynick for their leadership on this project.”

NSCC’s submission detailed its own, as well as the collaborative, work done across the state with the 15 Massachusetts community colleges under a TAACCCT grant that resulted in the website, e-portfolio and training of more than 200 faculty and staff in five regional trainings.

North Shore Community College is ranked 23rd in the nation, and first among Massachusetts community colleges (by Washington Monthly magazine’s annual College Guide and Rankings), for effectively serving adult learners. Gentile noted that one reason why is NSCC’s leadership in finding ways to provide non-traditional or adult (25+ years) students who have some form of professional experience with Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

NSCC has done PLA for more than 40 years and its Center for Alternative Studies and Educational Testing (CAS) houses a well-developed variety of best-practice CPL programs. CAS ( is located on both college campuses and is open three evenings per week to best serve NSCC’s growing adult student body.

Student participation in PLA at NSCC is 68 percent higher than the average number across the other 14 community colleges. NSCC is the only institution in MA to make PLA options transparent to prospective and current students. CAS options are listed alongside courses on all Guided Pathway sheets, which students and advisors use to guide coursework.

For students, this program means less cost and less time to complete their degrees or certificates. In the last three years, NSCC has annually averaged more than 430 students who have leveraged CPL options for eight college level credits, saving on average $1,600 a student, and time on their degree.  Last year 16.9 percent of NSCC graduates had some form of CPL transcribed.  Studies show that students who leveraged CPL were 2.5 times more likely to graduate.

PLA options span all programs across NSCC, with the exception of Criminal Justice. Due to NSCC’s leadership with PLA, in FY2016 NSCC was awarded a grant to oversee the design of a statewide website and curriculum crosswalk on Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) opportunities at the 15 MA community colleges. The website, an outreach strategy that connects students with the potential for earning CPL credits to the target institution of their choice, includes a student self-assessment of PLA suitability, a bank of PLA offerings by institution, and an e-portfolio repository. See

More Stories In News