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Learning outside of the classroom.

 Earn credit for what you already know and have accomplished.

Prior Learning Assessment for Academic Credit

Our students come to us with a vast array of work experience and training, and we recognize that not all learning has resulted from traditional classroom attendance. Our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program provides you with the opportunity to earn credit for learning outside the confines of a traditional classroom.

The PLA portfolio program might be right for you if you have developed college- or graduate-level knowledge, skills, and abilities, and are able to demonstrate that these skills meet the learning objectives of an academic course. This prior learning may be a result of your: 

  • Work experience
  • Formal corporate or military training
  • Business ownership
  • Volunteer work
  • Civic leadership
  • Hobbies
  • Independent study

Benefits of Prior Learning Assessment

A study by the Lumina Foundation revealed that students who participate in PLA programs are more likely to persist and graduate. PLA provides many benefits to students because it may:

  • Lessen time required to complete a degree and helps lower tuition costs.
  • Eliminate redundancies associated with reviewing material you have already mastered.
  • Allow you to demonstrate learning for which there is no standardized exam.
  • Be ideal if you perform better on written assignments than tests.

Program Entrance Requirements

You are eligible to participate in the PLA program if you meet these requirements:

Undergraduate Students

  • Completed the university application and have a completed admission status.
  • Submitted the transfer credit application if you have academic credits to transfer.
  • Earned a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 for courses taken to date and are not on academic probation.
  • Not yet applied for graduation or registered for a senior seminar course.

Graduate Students

  • Completed the university application and are registered in a course in your current program.
  • Submitted the transfer credit application if you have academic credits to transfer.
  • Have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 for courses taken to date and are not on academic probation.
  • Not yet applied for graduation or registered for a capstone or other end-of-program option.

Note: Independent study courses and the senior seminar are not eligible for PLA.

The PLA Portfolio

To be awarded credit for prior learning, you must be able to demonstrate that you have met the learning objectives required in a university academic course. This is done by creating a portfolio.

Your prior learning portfolio is a collection of materials or artifacts compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to your academic degree plan. A portfolio consists of multiple required components. Each component plays a role in demonstrating mastery of course objectives. The components that make up a portfolio include:

  • The Educational Goal Statement – This gives you the opportunity to examine your personal motivation in the context of learning and application of knowledge. This document provides prior learning evaluators with insight and helps them provide appropriate feedback to facilitate life-long learning.
  • The Autobiography – The autobiography focuses on your professional and personal learning endeavors since high school. In writing the autobiography, you will analyze your past experiences in terms of critical incidents that led to learning. This part of the portfolio helps the evaluator understand when, how, and why the learning has occurred.
  • The Resume – A resume allows you to highlight more detail about your responsibilities and accomplishments that have supported learning. The resume provides the evaluator with a timeline and demonstrates the progression of learning.
  • The Narrative – This component is unique for every portfolio because the focus is on the learning objectives for a specific course. You must address each course objective found on the course syllabus, and demonstrate that you have mastered the objectives to the same extent as students who have completed the course. The narrative may be lengthy depending on the course.
  • Documentation – You will need to supply documentation to support the narrative. Documentation is as individual as the learner. It may include items such as sample work products, training certificates, workplace evaluations, letters of recommendation, and/or photographs.

View your academic plan or search our course schedule to view syllabi for individual courses.

Submitting Portfolios

You must submit a separate portfolio for each course where you seek to petition for credit. Some components of your original portfolio may be used in multiple submissions. We strongly encourage you to work on one portfolio at a time, as this allows you to use feedback from the initial portfolio to inform the development of additional portfolios.

PLA Undergraduate Course - COLL 200

If you are accepted into the undergraduate PLA program, you must enroll in COLL200, which is a mandatory 8-week, 3-credit-hour elective course designed to help you think and write about your prior experience in terms of the learning that resulted.

The COLL200 course provides specific exercises to assist you in the identification of individual prior learning that may be credit-worthy. Upon completion of the course, you will have developed one PLA portfolio.

You are only required to participate in COLL200 once, but can submit more than one portfolio for evaluation upon successful completion of the course. The review of the first portfolio is done as part of the course tuition, and there is a $250 fee for the submission of each additional portfolio. Submitting additional portfolios may save you money because each portfolio submission costs $250, which is 2/3 less than the cost of tuition for a 3-credit-hour course. Note: The $250 portfolio review fee is non-refundable even if the review does not result in the award of academic credit.

PLA Workshop for Graduate Students

Graduate students are required to participate in a no-cost/no-credit workshop that will assist you in the identification of individual prior learning that may be credit-worthy. You will work through a variety of exercises to analyze your experiences in terms of learning and to develop the various portfolio components.

This self-paced workshop can be completed independently in about 4 weeks. Throughout the workshop, a PLA team member provides feedback on assignments and portfolio components. You will complete the portfolio by the end of the workshop, though final editing of it might take a bit longer. The fee to submit a graduate level portfolio for review is $325, which is about 2/3 less than the cost of tuition for a 3-credt-hour graduate course. Note: The $325 portfolio review fee is non-refundable even if the review does not result in the award of academic credit.

Credits Awarded

Credit petitioned via PLA must be for a specific university course within your academic program, but cannot be applied toward seminar, capstone, and/or independent study courses. The university awards credit for college-level/graduate level learning that can be assessed and documented. Credit is awarded for learning, not experience. Evidence is critical for a successful portfolio. Your prior learning must be:

  • Related to your current educational goals and objectives.
  • College-level/graduate level and be relevant to a specific course for which the university grants academic credit.
  • Transferable to situations other than that in which it was gained.
  • Accompanied by the application of appropriate theories.
  • Include evidence to support having achieved course learning objectives, samples include:   
    • Certifications/training certificates
    • Professional evaluations
    • Awards/commendations

PLA credits are considered "non-traditional" transfer credits. Accrediting guidelines limit the amount of non-traditional credit applied toward degree completion as follows:

  • Graduate-level Certificates - no more than 9 semester hours
  • Associate - no more than 30 semester hours
  • Bachelor’s - no more than 60 semester hours
  • Master’s - no more than 9 semester hours

Credit for the Prior Learning course - COLL200 will be applied to elective credits with a letter grade. Credit received for prior learning will be posted to the academic transcript in fulfillment for the course petitioned as PLA credit and counted toward transfer credit limits. There is no letter grade assigned and it is not factored into the GPA. Note: PLA credit awarded cannot duplicate previously awarded credit.

Interested in PLA?

Students must be pre-approved by the PLA team to participate in the program. Please email to request application instructions.

For more information, please contact the staff of the Prior Learning Assessment office at or visit our student Help Center.