Prior Learning Policy

Current efforts in higher education have been established to help students return to college and complete their degrees. President Obama has challenged every American to commit to at least one year of higher education and has set a goal by 2020 to place the United States as the country with the highest college graduation rates in the world.

The Lumina Foundation has also challenged higher education: to increase the proportion of Americans with high-quality credentials to 60% by the year 2025. In both challenges, Prior Learning Assessment has been named as a strategy for helping adults complete their degrees sooner at lower costs. The U.S. Department of Education also encouraged community colleges to provide PLA opportunities through the TAACCCT Grants as part of the grant RFPs.

According to The National Conference of State Legislatures, various states are developing processes to award college credit or occupational licensure for a student’s prior learning gained through work experience, military service, community involvement or independent study. Visit the state policy page for a complete list of PLA legislation around the country.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) recently published an updated report: State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning Assessment (2016), which provides review of State and System policy trends. Included in this report are some questions regarding policy considerations.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has developed the Ten Standards for Assessing Learning. These standards do not prescribe practice, but provide a philosophical foundation, which most institutions use to structure their PLA programs. Fiddler, Marienau, & Whitaker (2006) published the book Assessing Learning: Standards, Principles and Procedures, which provides insight on the ten standards and practice implications for institutions.

Each of the seven regional accreditation associations have made some statements about prior learning assessment.