Prior Learning Assessment – How to get college credit for your experience

ACC student in 2nd floor student loungeWhen it comes to college, I think we can all agree that we just want our school studies to be over and done with ASAP so that we can move on with our lives and start making an honest living. So, you may be wondering, “Is there a way that I can maybe speed things up a bit?” Maybe you have some experience that could trim some time off of your time in college…if so, wouldn’t you want to know about it??

I’m Allison Lemmertz, the Graduation & Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator here at ACC. While I’m not the ultimate authority in granting you these potential college credit short-cuts, I am certainly here to help get you the information you need to see if your prior learning experiences are worth something!

What is “Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)”?

The formal definition of prior learning assessment, according to the American Council on Education, is “learning gained outside the college classroom in a variety of settings and through formal and non-formal means…”. Here at ACC we recognize 3 main formats of PLA:

  1. Prior learning through examination
  2. Prior learning through industry certification or licensure
  3. Prior learning through portfolio

If you completed any AP coursework in high school, don’t underestimate those! Students in the past have earned up to half of their associate’s degree from AP scores!

Exams that you can take for college credit include: CLEP, DSST, AP, IB, and UExcel, which are standardized tests. Other exams that you can take are done through different ACC departments (based on subject area). These are our challenge exams. We currently offer challenge exams for:

  • Mathematics
  • Health Information Technology
  • Medical Office Technology
  • Graphic Design
  • Computer-Aided Drafting
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Computer Networking

If you’re interested in testing from one of the subject areas listed above, please get in contact with me, and I’ll provide you with the necessary paperwork to get started as well as get you in contact with the appropriate program/department chair.

Industry Certification or Licensure is another key area where you may be eligible for college credit. At ACC, our most recognized industry certifications for credit are:

  • Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification
  • National Registry of EMT (NREMT) certification
  • AAPC Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) certification
  • AAPC Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification
  • AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) certification
  • CompTIA A+ certification
  • CompTIA Network +
  • CompTIA Security +
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) Part 1
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) Part 2

Military training and service also falls under the realm of PLA, so if you have that experience, please have your joint services transcript sent to ACC for transcript evaluation.

How does Prior Learning Assessment work?

Prior learning Assessment is a team effort! As the student, it is up to you to initiate the communication to request college credit from your prior learning experience. You will communicate with your program chair as well as me (Allison Lemmertz- Allison.lemmertz@arapahoe.edu), the Graduation & Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator here at ACC to get the ball rolling.

As with any other college credits, please also keep in mind that we can only bring in college credits that apply to your major or program! So, for instance, if you have certification in Cisco Networking, but you’re enrolled in an English degree, then that certification doesn’t help your progress- sorry.

What kinds of experience can I get credit for?

Generally speaking, your best chance of receiving college credits is fairly limited to the exams and certifications mentioned previously. We do, however, also offer credit for portfolio on occasion, although it is rare. Please just note these are typically on a case-by-case basis, and it is up to the program chair to offer or accept credit by portfolio.

Instances of prior learning assessment via portfolio that I have seen be successful include art, communication, and early childhood education. This isn’t to say that no other portfolios will be considered, so when in doubt, please feel free to ask us!

Is there a cost for Prior Learning Assessment?

Unfortunately, nothing is free, and when it comes to PLA, the same applies. Our fees for PLA vary, depending on the format of PLA as well as the credits. Please see the cost breakdown below for our different formats of PLA.

PLA by Exam PLA by Certification/Licensure PLA by Portfolio
$45 per credit hour $75 (flat rate; credit hour total doesn’t affect fee) $65 per credit hour

How is this different from the Alternative Credit Project?

While prior learning assessment falls under the realm of ‘alternative credit’, the Alternative Credit Project (ACP) is its own beast. The ACP includes a specific pool of courses that ACC will accept, and this project was agreed upon by the American Council on Education (ACE) and grant-supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Get specific information on the alternative credit project.

If you have any questions or want to see if your experience could lead to college credit, I am available to help. Contact me at allison.lemmertz@arapahoe.edu or call 303.797.5630. I’d be happy to discuss the possibility of getting you credit for your experience!

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