Prior Learning Assessment

The School of Continuing and Professional Education recognizes that not all learning has resulted from the traditional classroom. We strive to work with students who come to us with a vast array of work experience and training through the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). PLA provides the student with the opportunity to earn credit for learning outside of the confines of a traditional classroom, but also allows the learner to illustrate what they know through the construction of a professional, guided portfolio assembly. This path may save students both time and money as they work toward their degree.

The PLA portfolio process might be right for you if you have developed college-level knowledge, skills, and abilities, and are able to demonstrate that these skills meet the learning objectives of an academic course. This prior learning may be a result of your:  

  • Work experience
  • Formal corporate or military training
  • Business ownership
  • Volunteer work
  • Civic leadership
  • Hobbies
  • Independent study

To be awarded credit for prior learning, you must be able to demonstrate that you have met the learning objectives required in a bachelor’s level course. This is done by creating a portfolio. 

Your prior learning portfolio is a collection of materials or artifacts compiled to demonstrate previous college-level learning relevant to your academic degree plan. Each component in the portfolio plays a role in demonstrating mastery of course objectives. Learn more about the components of a portfolio below!

PLA Application & Checklist


  • The Educational Goal Statement – This gives you the opportunity to examine your personal motivation in the context of learning and application of knowledge. This document provides prior learning evaluators with insight and helps them provide appropriate feedback to facilitate life-long learning. 
  • The Autobiography – The autobiography focuses on your professional and personal learning endeavors since high school. In writing the autobiography, you will analyze your past experiences in terms of critical incidents that led to learning. This part of the portfolio helps the evaluator understand when, how, and why the learning has occurred. 
  • The Resume – A resume allows you to highlight more detail about your responsibilities and accomplishments that have supported learning. The resume provides the evaluator with a timeline and demonstrates the progression of learning. 
  • The Narrative – This component is unique for every portfolio because the focus is on the learning objectives for a specific course. You must address each course objective found on the course syllabus, and demonstrate that you have mastered the objectives to the same extent as students who have completed the course. The narrative may be lengthy depending on the course. 
  • Documentation – You will need to supply documentation to support the narrative. Documentation is as individual as the learner. It may include items such as sample work products, training certificates, workplace evaluations, letters of recommendation, and/or photographs. 

There is a flat fee of $480 per portfolio to cover the assessment service.    

You must submit a separate portfolio for each course where you seek to petition for credit. We strongly encourage you to work on one portfolio at a time, as this allows you to use feedback from the initial portfolio to inform the development of additional portfolios.   

All Prior Learning Assessment fees will be posted to the student's account upon submission of the portfolio and application form. The PLA fee is not refundable.  If the student does not receive credit as a result of the evaluation there is no appeal of the fee charged 

Credit petitioned via PLA must be for a specific university course within your academic program, but cannot be applied toward seminar, capstone, and/or independent study courses. The university awards credit for college-level learning that can be assessed and documented. Credit is awarded for learning, not experience. Evidence is critical for a successful portfolio. Your prior learning must be:

  • Related to your current educational goals and objectives.
  • College-level relevant to a specific course for which the university grants academic credit.
  • Transferable to situations other than that in which it was gained.
  • Accompanied by the application of appropriate theories.
  • Include evidence to support having achieved course learning objectives, samples include: 
  • Certifications/training certificates
  • Professional evaluations
  • Awards/commendations

Q. I have 20 years of work experience. How much credit can I receive? 
A. We award credit for the demonstration of college-level learning and not experience alone, so you will need to present your training transcripts, provide documentation and develop a portfolio. Talk with the Associate Director of Adult Degree Completion Program.  

Q. Do I pay a per credit fee? 
A. We do not charge a fee per credit. There is a flat fee of $480 to cover the cost of the assessment service.  The PLA fee is charged prior to the assessment of the portfolio.

Q. Are PLA credits transferable if I leave WPU?   
A. That decision would be made by the college/university you plan to attend.  

Q. If I am not awarded credit after a PLA evaluation, will I get a refund? 
A. No, the fees cover the cost of the assessment services provided and are not refundable.  

Q.All of my previous college credits did not transfer in. Can PLA help me? 
A. It is possible to use one of the other PLA options to show you have met the outcomes for the course. That will be the department's decision.  

Q. Who evaluates my prior learning? 
A. Faculty members in the department will review the Prior Learning Assessment portfolio and award credit. 

Q. Can prior learning credits be substituted for any WPU course? 
A. No, there are some courses that are unique and necessary to the goals of the degree.

Q. If I am not awarded PLA credit, can I appeal the decision? 
A. Yes, you may. William Paterson University adheres to the standards of conduct advanced by the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning. If you do not successfully pass credit by portfolio, you have the right to appeal by first resolving the disagreement with the Associate Director of the Adult Degree Completion Programs and the instructor; then through the Academic Appeal Process.

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