Prior Learning Assessment

If you have experience in subjects offered by Columbia State, you may be able to gain credit for what you've already learned. It's called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

Credit for PLA may include learning acquired from work and life experiences; civic, community, or volunteer work; individual study; and in-service training sponsored by associations, business, government, and industry, including the military.  PLA is the evaluation and assessment of an individual’s life learning for college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training and is reviewed for college-level equivalency.

Students demonstrate PLA in one of 3 forms:

Credit by Examination:
  • ACT
  • AP
  • CLEP
  • CEEB (College Board)
  • International Association of Administrative Professionals Examination
  • Course Challenge Exams
  • DSST Credit by Exam Program
  • SAT Reasoning Test

Credit Recommendation for Past Training (workplace or military):

  • ACE Credit
  • ACE Military Credit
  • ACE Examinations
  • Assessment of Licensure/Certificate/Apprenticeship Programs
  • Locally Assessed Training

Questions that Need Answers

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.

What PLA is not?
How can PLA be used?
Am I a good candidate?
What is the fee?


Office of Adult Student Services
Columbia Campus, JSC 143