Prior Learning Assessment is the practice of providing opportunities for adult learners to earn college credit for learning obtained from life experience. In reputable PLA programs, credit is not awarded for experience alone; instead, credit is awarded for learning, at the college level, that has been gained from experience. As we tell our students, there is no college-level course in “How Mary raised her kids;” there are college-level courses in Theories of Parenting, Sociology of the Family, and Child Development.

Read more from the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) about all the different kinds of PLA programs available to adult college students. Also, here is a recent (2011) CAEL report about the average number of credits students in PLA programs earn.

Read more about Marylhurst University’s PLA program. In 2011, Marylhurst celebrated the 35th anniversary of its PLA program!

Why is PLA so cool?

  • PLA offers adults who have the appropriate depth and breadth of learning from experience the opportunity to earn college credit for that learning.
  • PLA can accelerate time to degree by formally acknowledging learning that adult learners bring with them.
  • PLA can save students a lot of money.
  • AND – students report that they are often quite transformed by the experience of doing PLA: They are more confident, they are stronger writers, they are more dedicated to finishing their degree, and they think about themselves as learners differently than before.