In 2019 we announced our partnership with the CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS). Since then, Saylor courses have become the stepping stone that has led many students to finish their affordable degree programs.

We asked Dr. Jennnifer Sparrow, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at CUNY SPS, for her insight into the partnership and what the future holds for this valuable team-up. Read her comments below.

Saylor Academy: Tell us about your professional background. How long have you been with CUNY SPS?

Jennifer Sparrow: I’ve been at City University of New York (CUNY) since 1998, first as an English professor and then as an administrator at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn. I moved to CUNY School of Professional Studies (CUNY SPS) in 2010 to run the General Education program, which supports all of our fully online bachelor’s degrees for adult degree completers. I was promoted to Associate Dean for Affairs where I oversee Instructional Technology, Gen Ed and First Year Experience, Experiential Learning, Open Education Resources, Tutoring, and other student success initiatives at the School.

SA: What do you like the most about your job?

JS: I like working at a school that was founded to be different. Our Dean has always been supportive of new ideas and initiatives. Being a fairly small institution, there has been a lot of room to grow and innovate. It’s never boring here! CUNY SPS is home to the first fully online degrees at CUNY, the first Zero Textbook Cost degrees (Z-Degrees) and we have a robust Credit for Prior Learning program, which I think is what I enjoy most about my job because I can see the effect that CPL has on students’ ability to save time and money finishing what they started. Credit for Prior Learning is empowering and motivating.

SA: What is CUNY SPS’s approach to prior learning and giving credit for that learning?

JS: It’s about respect. Our Credit for Prior Learning process is grounded in the philosophy that college-level learning can take place anywhere (not just the college classroom), and that all learning is valuable and deserves to be recognized. As a school that was founded to serve working adult degree completers, it is part of our DNA to provide adults who have an abundance of college-level learning from work and life with an opportunity to demonstrate what they know and can do and to receive credit for their learning.  We offer credit via portfolio evaluation; credit via college-level exams, which is where Saylor fits in; and credit for non-collegiate learning such as workplace learning, professional certifications and licenses, and military training; and we are always on the lookout for new ways to award credit. Here’s a link to a webpage that features our CPL opportunities.

SA: How did you first hear about Saylor Academy?

JS: I learned about Saylor Academy and met Jackie Arnold, Director of Strategic Relationships at Saylor, at the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) conference a few years ago. I attended a presentation by Tracy Robinson about the brilliant University of Memphis Finish Line program and how UMemphis leverages Saylor courses to help degree completers, and I wanted to see if we could do something similar at CUNY SPS. As soon as I returned to the office, I set up a meeting with Jackie to start evaluating and awarding credit for Saylor courses and exams.

"Last year [20-21 academic year] Saylor exams saved CUNY SPS students almost $23,000 (we had 25 exams taken and passed last year)." – Dr. Jennifer Sparrow, CUNY SPS Share on X

SA: How has working in partnership with Saylor been so far for you?

JS: Working with Saylor has been terrific. Especially when the pandemic first hit New York City and many testing centers shut down, it was great to be able to offer students the option of using Open Education Resource (no textbook cost) Saylor courses and online proctored exams to continue to make progress toward degree completion. Especially for those who were laid off or otherwise shut at home during that time, the ability to keep on track with educational goals was incredibly powerful.

SA: What are your hopes for the future of this partnership?

JS: My overall Credit for Prior Learning goal for CUNY SPS is for every undergraduate to receive some form of CPL before graduating. Saylor is an important part of that goal, and I appreciate that Saylor keeps adding new courses, increasing opportunity.

SA: On a personal level, what is the one thing you are most content about working with Saylor Academy?

JS: I appreciate Saylor’s involvement and thought partnership with the Adult Learner/Credit for Prior Learning education sector.

SA: Anything else you might want to share with us?

JS: Last year [20-21 academic year] Saylor exams saved CUNY SPS students almost $23,000 (we had 25 exams taken and passed last year).

We reach more students thanks to the efforts of great professionals like Dr. Sparrow. If you are looking to finish your college degree, click here to learn more about our Direct College Credit Program where you can complete your degree with substantial tuition savings!  Read more student interviews here and learn about their experiences earning their certificates.