Prior Learning Assessments: A Policy Guide for State Leaders

Labor market projections indicate that most jobs in the future will require a postsecondary certificate or degree, so how can experienced workers without college credentials stay in the game?

Through Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), individuals with relevant job experience receive postsecondary credit for the knowledge and skills that they have learned outside of the classroom. Some state leaders have already embraced the strategy and are creating policies to support PLA. Others have shown interest in implementing PLA in their states. A new resource from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning Assessment, is aimed at helping state leaders develop state policies in support of PLA.

According to CAEL, students with PLA credits were 2.5 more likely to persist to graduation than students without PLA credits. PLAs also benefit state systems such as higher education, economic development, workforce development, and Career Technical Education (CTE).

CAEL’s comprehensive guide lays out factors that state leaders should consider while customizing their strategy for PLA implementation. Areas of consideration from the guide include:

  • Policies and practices currently in place at colleges and universities – What are the transfer policies for credits earned through PLA?
  • Authority – How are PLA policies decided?
  • Impact – Do institutions or systems regularly track the use of PLA by students?
  • Transparency – How do state residents find out about PLA opportunities?
  • Champions – Are there PLA champions in your state?
  • Barriers – Are there any existing policy barriers to PLA?

The guide also includes current strategies used by states to promote PLA, such as establishing PLA policy and assessment processes and methods. Case studies from Washington, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Vermont are also presented, as well as sample state policies and summaries of PLA in participating states.

View the complete guide here.

Kara Herbertson, Education Policy Analyst 


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