Prior Learning Assessment

Photo by Alex Craghead, former PLA student at Marylhurst University.


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


  • 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.


Below is a list of students who share their experiences with the PLA program at Marylhurst University. Some are videos, some are written testimonials, and all tell good stories about the ways in which the program challenged them, benefited them, and changed their perspective on their experiences and themselves! Thanks to all of our PLA students who are willing to reflect on their experiences, one more time.



Please contact me if you’re interested in learning more about how you might implement PLA at your institution.  CAEL also offers consulting services to universities and colleges about PLA. Click HERE or HERE to learn more.


One thought on “Prior Learning Assessment

  1. Hi Melanie – I regularly follow your blog, but was particularly interested in this post since it related to PLA! Thank you for ensuring Marylhurst’s strong reputation in offering rigorous and quality PLA assessments, and for ensuring that your reviews follow the CAEL standards.

    In case you hadn’t already heard, we have recently launched an online PLA service — You should check it out to see if it could help augment any of Marylhurst’s current offerings, or, to see if it is something that you want to get involved with as an instructor or assessor! (See here for info:

    Cathy Brigham
    CAEL /

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