Penn State Prior Learning Assessment launches new website

Earn credit for what you already know at

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For many learners, the traditional path to a college degree can seem like a long one, and finding the time to complete a degree program can be challenging. Prior learning assessment is one way students may earn credit for prior knowledge and, in turn, lessen their time to degree completion. was created to serve as a single point of entry for students, providing them with information to help determine if prior learning assessment is a viable option for them. Faculty and staff can also use the site to access information on policies and procedures for prior learning assessment.

“At Penn State, opportunities exist to help students earn credit through prior college-level learning—at another college or university, in the military, in the workplace, through self-study, or in high school,” said Michele Rice, director of Prior Learning Assessment.

Prior learning assessment (PLA) is the process of determining whether knowledge gained (in addition to course work) outside of the traditional academic environment is at the college-level and worthy of college-credit.

The PLA website includes information for transfer students, adult learners, military and veteran students, and first-year students with instructions on how to earn credit. Common ways to earn credit include transfer courses, military experience, work experience, testing, or portfolio development.

The most popular forms of prior learning assessment at Penn State recently have been transfer credits, Advanced Placement (AP) exams, military credits, nursing licensures, and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams.

Research supports that students who use prior learning assessment early in their academic careers save both time and money.

Prior learning assessment is part of Penn State’s Access and Affordability initiative. According to data provided by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, a student who takes five years to graduate gives up $46,355 in earnings while a student who takes six years loses $94,353 when assuming a 4 percent wage growth in the second year of working. In a 2010 study by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, it was determined that, students who use PLA have better retention and graduation rates than those who do not.

Prior Learning Assessment is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at

For more information about Prior Learning Assessment, contact Michele Rice, director of Prior Learning Assessment at or 814-867-6097.

Current students are encouraged to learn more about prior learning opportunities by visiting and working with their adviser.

Last Updated August 15, 2016