Prior Learning Assessment is the process of earning college credit for college-level learning acquired from other sources, such as work experience, professional training, military training, or open source learning from the web.

How PLA Contributes to Academic Success

DETC recently conducted a study on PLA and adult student outcomes. The study examined data on 62,475 adult students at 48 colleges and universities across the country. DETC found that graduation rates are two and a half times higher for students with PLA credit. PLA students also had higher persistence rates and a faster time to degree completion. 

There Are Multiple Approaches to PLA

Prior Learning Assessment is not just one method or tool. PLA includes options such as:


·      Portfolio-based Assessments—Evaluations of student portfolios such as those done through DETC’s service,


·      American Council on Education (ACE) Guides—Published credit recommendations for formal instructional programs offered by non-collegiate agencies, both civilian employers and the military


·      Advanced Placement (AP) Exams—A series of tests developed by the College Board initially for AP High School courses, including 34 exams in 19 subject areas


·      College Level Examination Program (CLEP) Exams—Tests of college material offered by the College Board


·      DSST Credit by Exam Program—Formerly known as the DANTES Program, owned and administered by Prometric, tests knowledge of both lower-level and upper-level college material through 38 exams

·      Excelsior College Examination Program—Formerly, Regents College Exams or ACT/PEP Exams, offered by Excelsior College, NY


·      UExcel Credit by Exam Program—tests knowledge of lower-level college material; awarded Excelsior College credit can be transferred to other colleges and universities


·      National College Credit Recommendation Service—(formerly known as National PONSI) evaluates learning experiences for noncollegiate organizations

·      Evaluation of Local Training—Program evaluations done by individual colleges of non-collegiate instructional programs


·      Challenge Exams—Local tests developed by a college to verify learning achievement

Helping Adults Earn College Credit for What They Already Know

When people receive college credit for what they know from life and work experience, they earn their degrees and credentials faster, saving money on tuition. They also learn the value of their experience, which gives them confidence to complete their degrees. 

To help adult students receive the college credit they deserve, and to help colleges and universities award credit for prior learning, DETC offers these services: 
If you have significant college-level learning from job training, work experience, military experience, or other experiences, is the place to earn college credit for what you already know. Why take—and pay for—classes in subjects you have already mastered?

Faculty and Administrator Professional Development 
To understand how to evaluate and award credit for the prior learning of your students, start by joining a DETC webinar, attending a 1 ½ day workshop, or becoming certified online in Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

Customized Consulting for Colleges and Universities 
If you want to assess learning on your campus, DETC’s on-site workshops and consulting services help you understand how offering credit for prior learning will help you meet your retention and graduation goals.

College Completion through Prior Learning Assessment


DETC is working with leaders at the federal and state levels to meet our country’s college completion agenda by promoting policy to help workers earn college credit for what they already know. Using a process called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), students can have their skills and competencies evaluated for college credit.