Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) provides opportunities for adult learners to earn college credit for learning obtained through their rich life experiences, outside of college classrooms.  One avenue for this is Prior Learning Assessment — a writing-based portfolio process through which students identify, articulate and document their knowledge and skills related to college courses or subjects appropriate for their degree needs.  In 2016, Marylhurst will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its PLA program!

In reputable Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) programs, college credit is awarded for demonstrated knowledge and skills that are comparable to what might be learned in a relevant college course.  For example, there is no course in “How Janice Raised Her Kids,” however there are many college-level courses in Theories of Parenting, Sociology of the Family, Child Development, and the like.  PLA requires that students think beyond their personal experiences of when, how and what they’ve learned, and translate what they know through the language of the academic area most relevant to the subject.

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

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 completion by formally acknowledging learning that adult learners bring with them.
  • PLA can save students a lot of money because the cost for evaluating prior learning is a lot less than the cost of gaining new learning.
  • 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.

Read more about Marylhurst University’s CPL program, and hear what students have said about their own experience in the program by viewing PLA Alum videos throughout our blog!

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