Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Education (Ed.D.)


Administrative and Instructional Leadership

First Advisor

Anthony J. Annunziato

Second Advisor

Ceceilia Parnther

Third Advisor

Ann Macaluso


The purpose of the ex post facto study was to examine the extent to which the impact of awarding credit for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) to adult learners increases community college enrollment and graduation rates, at an ethnically diverse community college in the northeastern United States. The study explored the relationship between adult learners who earn PLA credits or do not earn PLA credits, and student success. Data were collected from student archival records, September 2012 – May 2018 from 1,307 adult learners who ranged in age from 25 to 67, attended both full- and part-time, had a declared major, and had no previous credits from the study setting before September 2012. The main research question was to determine what, if any, impact awarding PLA had on a set of academic success indicators (GPA, persistence, and graduation). Results from a binary logistic regression analysis showed that community college adult students who earned PLA credit were significantly more likely to graduate than non-PLA adult learners who did not earn PLA credit. None of the demographic factors (age, gender, and ethnicity) added to the prediction of graduation attainment for adult learners beyond PLA status. The One-way Multivariate Analysis of Covariance analysis for the outcome measure GPA revealed that the PLA and the non-PLA group achieved statistically equivalent overall GPA, and persistence (length of time to degree attainment) was significant. The PLA group required less time to graduate than the non-PLA group. The relevant findings demonstrate to the community college policy and decision makers the unique needs of adult learners, and the potential contribution PLA status makes to student success. With the shift to a more diverse demographic, the community college needs to use the collected information to allocate resources to strategically develop a rigorous PLA program, and market the value and significant benefits gained from PLA to foster more enrollment, retention, and completion. During a critical period, when institutions continue to face the challenge of declining enrollment, this study will add to the literature within the context of the community college associated with the PLA process, as it relates to adult learners.