Prior Learning Assessment

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What is PLA?


Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the evaluation of knowledge and/or competencies for the purpose of awarding college credit for learning that has occurred outside of the college classroom. 


You may be a good candidate for PLA if you have knowledge and/or competencies gained through:

• professional certificates or licenses;

• extensive study or reading in a specific subject area;

• supervising or managing employees for at least five years;

• formal training sponsored by your employer;

• planning, implementing and operating your own business;

• organizational work in community, volunteer or political areas for at least five years. 


In some cases, credit may be available through standardized exams in certain subject areas (for example, CLEP).  Additionally, USA may award credit for specialized training programs that have been evaluated by the American Council of Education (ACE).  If credit is not available through these or other routes (See “Types of Alternate Credit” below), then you may be a good candidate for enrollment in the PLA by Portfolio program. 


PLA by Portfolio


The PLA by Portfolio program requires enrollment in a portfolio development course, in which students will learn how to write and organize a portfolio detailing and documenting their learning experience in a particular subject area.  The objective of the portfolio is to demonstrate college-level knowledge in the subject area.  Once the portfolio is completed, it may be submitted for assessment; a panel of qualified experts will review the portfolio to determine if college credit can be granted.


You may qualify for PLA by Portfolio at USA if you:

• Are enrolled as a USA undergraduate student

• Have completed at least 32 semester hours of college credit with a minimum grade point average of 3.0

• Have completed the equivalent of EH 101 Composition I and EH 102 Composition II to demonstrate college-level writing proficiency

• Have significant knowledge or competencies that can be documented

• Can identify courses in the USA Bulletin that describe what you already know and practice


Students interested in pursuing PLA by Portfolio must first meet with the PLA advisor and must meet the minimum qualifications outlined above.  An application, available from the PLA advisor, is also required.  Once the application is approved, students will then be cleared for enrollment in the portfolio development course.  Enrollment in the portfolio course does not guarantee that credit will be awarded once the portfolio is completed and submitted for assessment.


For additional information, contact the PLA advisor at (251) 460-6263. 

Types of Alternate Credit


College Level Examination Program (CLEP) - Credit is offered via standardized exam in 24 different subject areas, as out-lined in the USA Bulletin.  USA is a testing site for CLEP; contact Counseling and Testing Services at 251-460-7051 for information about test fees and dates


Advanced Placement (AP) exams and International Baccalaureate (IB)  - Students who were enrolled in either of these high school programs may qualify for credit at USA.  Refer to the USA Bulletin for specific information.


Military or non-collegiate workforce training programs - The American Council of Education (ACE) routinely reviews military and non-collegiate workforce training programs and makes recommendations to colleges and universities for awarding of college-level credit.  USA uses the ACE recommendations to award credit where appropriate.  Students must send their official transcripts or military documents to USA in order for credit to be granted.  Contact the Registrar’s Office or the PLA advisor for more information.


Foreign Language credit -  Students with proficiency in a foreign language may be eligible to receive credit for courses appropriate to their level of proficiency.  Contact the USA Department of Foreign Languages at 251-460-6291 for more information.