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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program?

PLA is a program administered by Marylhurst University's Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment. PLA helps adults earn college credit for the learning they've acquired during years of work and life experience.

You can earn up to 45 undergraduate credits toward your bachelor's degree through submission of a PLA Portfolio. These 45 credits will satisfy Marylhurst's residency requirements for graduation.

You can also earn up to 45 credits through standardized testing. Credits earned through testing are considered transfer credits and do not meet residency requirements.

Read more about Credit by Examination.

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Can I earn my bachelor's degree with prior learning alone?

No. A Marylhurst University bachelor's degree requires a total of 180 quarter credits, which includes 45 credits that must be earned at Marylhurst. PLA credits may be applied toward that 45-credit residency requirement. Credits earned through testing and your PLA Portfolio may be applied to any Marylhurst undergraduate degree program with the approval of your academic adviser.

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Who can use PLA?

PLA could be an option for you if you are an adult with at least 9 credits of university coursework and a number of years of life and work experience. PLA credits may be used only at the undergraduate level.

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What can I get prior learning credit for?

You can earn prior learning credit for almost any university course taught – assuming that you have acquired most of the knowledge contained in the course.

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What is a PLA Portfolio?

Most PLA Portfolios contain essays about and evidence for the college-level learning you have obtained through work and life experience.

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What does a PLA essay look like?

Essays are developed around the outcomes of the college-level course for which you are requesting credit. They represent an integration of theory and practical application: in your essay, you discuss the theories of the subject and how you've applied or experienced those theories in your work and life situations.

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Who reviews the PLA essays?

You will work closely with your PLA instructor as you develop your essays. The instructor provides support and guidance as you write, research and document the essay. When the essay is complete, it is sent to a content specialist – someone with appropriate academic expertise and credentials – who evaluates the essay for content and demonstration of learning comparable to the course for which you are requesting credit.

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What are the steps for working through PLA?

Marylhurst's PLA program is designed to ensure that your academic needs will be met by doing PLA. The program includes two workshops and then a sequence of tutorials based on your individual schedule and pace:

LRN 150 - The Learning Assessment Workshop
LRN 305 - The Prior Learning Assessment Seminar
LRN 311, 312, 003 - Portfolio Development Workshops

The entire program is also available online.

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How long will the PLA Portfolio process take?

In general, it takes at least 3 to 4 terms to complete a 45-credit portfolio at Marylhurst. In LRN 150, the Learning Assessment Workshop, you look closely at the amount of time you have available, as well as the overall support you have for continuing the PLA process. Although you will complete three PLA essays in LRN 305, the bulk of the work in putting together PLA submissions happens in the Portfolio Development Workshops: LRN 311, 312 or LRN 003.

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Why would I enroll in PLA?

The incentives for students include:

  • Learning more about what you already know
  • Acknowledgement that learning from past experiences is worth college credit
  • Improved writing and research skills
  • Decreased time and cost for your undergraduate degree

After the first two PLA workshops, you work with program faculty in an online workshop to implement your individualized PLA Portfolio Plan. University credits are currently $451 per credit hour for regular course work. Credits earned through a completed PLA Portfolio are approximately $50 per credit hour. Even after you factor the cost of the two initial courses, LRN 150 and LRN 305, and the PLA portfolio development courses, LRN 311, 312, and 003, the cost per credit for PLA is far lower than regular Marylhurst course work tuition. Your final cost per credit will depend on the number of PLA credits you earn and how many terms it takes you to earn them.

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How do I find out more?

You are encouraged to call, email or visit the Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment.

We recommend that you come to an information meeting where our helpful staff review the PLA program, discuss standardized testing options and answer your questions.

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