Assessments of Prior Learning

In some cases, students can receive course credits based on college-level knowledge and skills gained outside the college classroom, including employment and military training and service. Identifying prior learning that is eligible for college credit can make a student’s education more affordable and reduce the time to a degree or certificate.  

What is Prior Learning Assessment?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process used to evaluate previous life experience for academic credit. Prior Learning Assessment is accomplished through standardized tests (i.e. CLEP and DANTES), course challenge examinations, portfolio assessment, and crosswalks between work-based learning and college courses.

Prior Learning Assessment in Washington

Legislation that passed in 2011 and 2012 required the Washington Student Achievement Council to convene the Prior Learning Assessment Workgroup to coordinate and implement seven goals described in statute for promoting the award of college credit for prior learning (RCW 28B.77.230). Colleges and universities in Washington may use several different PLA methods to award credit for prior learning. Some PLA methods cost a student more than others, but any PLA credit-earning method will typically cost less than tuition to enroll in the equivalent course. In addition, when PLA credit is earned, it may allow the student to enroll in, or advance to, higher-level courses.

Accessing and Awarding Credit for Prior Learning: A handbook for faculty and staff

Prior Learning Assessment on Campuses

Every college and university in Washington offers some form of Prior Learning Assessment. Each institution has identified a PLA Primary Point of Contact for information about Prior Learning Assessment: