Would you return to college to finish your degree if you could save on tuition by getting credit for certain life experience?

Should you get college credits for life experience? (Fuse, ThinkStock)

New Jersey has more than 850,000 residents with partial degrees. Under the New Jersey Prior Learning Assessment Network (NJ PLAN), five senior colleges and five community colleges have the authority to give credits in certain circumstances.

Students at the participating colleges put together a portfolio and the faculty then assesses if the knowledge that the student demonstrated is essentially equivalent to what would be taught in a parallel course if it was taken on campus. Corporate and organizational training is also considered. For instance, credits can be earned for those who received an IT certificate in the workforce.

"That is another way for which we can help bring down the costs for students returning to college," said Thomas Edison State College vice president William Seaton. "If they have knowledge in particular fields (they) do not have to take courses and repeat things that they've already learned."

Wednesday, Seaton testified before the College Affordability Study Commission at the State House. Rochelle Hendricks, Secretary of Higher Education, was also scheduled to testify, but was unable to attend the hearing.

Last year, Seaton's college did an analysis of the students taking part in NJ PLAN and it was discovered the students were saved over $500,000 in tuition.

"We felt on a statewide if we can begin to expand this it could have a significant impact on the costs of adults who are returning to school. I would not say this is for everyone. It certainly is geared toward adults who have been out in the world and have experience," Seaton said.

If the state did expand the program and helped more people get their degrees there would be a stronger workforce in New Jersey and doing it in a cost effective way, it would help thousands of students Seaton said.