Prior Learning Assessment
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: WHY SHOULD I USE PLA?
PLA allows you to earn credit for things you already know. It saves you from having to take courses in subjects that you already understand. This means that you can progress more quickly towards getting your degree. Also, you do not have to pay full tuition for these courses.
PLA is Quick
Some forms of PLA can earn you credit much faster than even the most accelerated college courses. For example, an institution may award you credit for military or work training based on an ACE transcript. Once submitted to the institution, this credit is almost immediately awarded without you needing to take any additional steps. There are also hundreds of examinations you can take to show proficiency in a subject area. This means that you can take a 1-3 hour exam, and be awarded up to 12 credit hours at once. It could take a semester or more to earn those credits in a traditional college classroom.
PLA is Inexpensive
Nearly all public colleges and universities in Tennessee award PLA credit below the cost of full tuition at their institutions. In some cases, the institution does not charge a fee at all. This means, for example, that you could pay $80 for a CLEP examination and earn 3 credit hours. It could cost you $500 or more to earn the same credits in a traditional classroom.
PLA Rewards You for What You Already Know
Many adults find it challenging to start back at getting a college degree. Is it worth you time? Will your experience be the same as someone right out of high school? PLA allows you to jump-start your college career. The fact is that quite a lot has happened in your life since you finished high school. You have learned a lot about life, but you have also gained a lot of experience at work, in the military, or in volunteer positions. This knowledge may mean that you do not need to start from scratch. PLA can reward you for this and may make you much closer to your degree than you know.
Q: WHAT PLA IS NOT?
PLA is not automatic credit for past experiences. We have all had many experiences in our lives, but many of them do not deserve college credit. Furthermore, students cannot simply turn in resumes or work histories and expect to be awarded credit. Students must prove that they have learned something and prove that what they have learned is at the college level. In many cases the faculty and staff at colleges and universities can help you determine if your knowledge is at the college level. It is also important to understand that the burden is on the student to prove that they deserve credit, whether this means passing a test or discussing the knowledge they have gained in a written portfolio. Furthermore, the credit must be relevant to the degree that you wish to earn.
PLA is not free credit. PLA can often save you time and money because the costs of PLA are dramatically lower than paying the tuition for traditional courses. However, there are costs and fees associated with PLA.
Q: HOW CAN PLA BE USED?
- General education
- Major requirements
- Minor requirements
- Certificate programs
- Elective credits
Q: AM I A GOOD CANDIDATE?
- I am over the age of 24.
- I have a minimum of 5 years' work experience.
- My work experience includes leadership, management , or supervisory responsibilities.
- I have certifications and/or memberships with professional organizations.
- I have participation in corporate training programs.
- I have completed non-credit college courses.
- I have hobbies, personal interests, or have completed an informal independent study.
- I have been involved with extensive volunteer or community work.
- I am or was a member of the armed forces.
- I have lived in a foreign country and/or traveled extensively.
Q: DO WRITTEN POLICIES EXIST?
Yes, go to http://columbiastate.edu/catalog-handbook
Q: WHAT IS THE FEE?
- Challenge exams - $15 per credit hour
- Portfolio assessment - $15 per credit hour
- All other forms of PLA - No fee
Note: These fees represent institutional costs only.