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frequently asked question graphic dice jpg Frequently Asked Questions:

What is PLA?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) has many names; credit for prior learning, experiential credit, lifelong learning credit and many others.  Simply, PLA is the process by which a student gains knowledge outside of college and has that knowledge assessed for college level credit.  PLA is not ”giving away” credit based on experience, as the student must prove he or she has the required knowledge and that that knowledge is at the college level to the satisfaction of academic experts.

What PLA is not

PLA awards credit for learning, not just for your experience.  What is being evaluated for college credit is not your learning experience, but the knowledge you acquired and how that knowledge translates into specific college-level courses.

Who can earn PLA credit?

Anyone who is enrolled at Tennessee State University and has a lot of experience or knowledge has the potential to earn PLA.

What types of experiences may be worthy of PLA?

Current or previous work experience, worksite training/professional development, military training, professional certifications, examinations, entrepreneurship, volunteer work and unique life experiences.

How many PLA credits can I earn?

A maximum of 60 semester hours (any combination) for a bachelors' degree and maximum of 30 hours (any combination) for an associates' degree.

How much does it cost?  Is PLA by federal or state financial aid?

Currently, no fees associated with PLA are covered by federal or state financial aid.  However, credit-bearing portfolio courses may qualify for financial aid.  Many institutions charge little or no fees for PLA credits and in most cases it is substantially lower than full time tuition. TSU Fee Schedule .

How will I know if my experience and knowledge can be turned into credit through PLA?

You can utilize our “Get the Credit You Deserve Predictor Tool to get a good idea of your options.  Also, we advise you about which PLA options you should pursue.

Is it hard to earn demonstrated prior learning through PLA?

That depends on the type of PLA.

What are the benefits of prior learning assessment?

Earning college credit through PLA can help you save time, money and accelerate your academic process towards degree completion.  College credit for PLA can also demonstrate to employers that your prior learning adds value to your skill set

How do I document my experiences in a portfolio?

Students can build a portfolio for a TSU course to earn credit through a new program LearningCounts.

How can PLA credit be used?

General education, major requirements, certificate programs, elective credits.

Do PLA policies differ from department to department?

All departments follow the PLA policies described here and in the TSU  undergraduate  catalog .

Can PLA credits be transferred between departments and programs within this institution?

Once approved, your prior learning will be used to substitute for one or more specific courses.  If you change your major or program, the course(s) satisfied by your prior learning may not be required in your new major.  As with everything related to your academic plan, please consult your PLA or faculty advisor for specific questions.

Do written policies exist?

Yes.  This page presents the most updated information on Tennessee State University’s PLA procedures.  The formal policies for PLA are contained in the current catalog.

When do PLA credits appear on a student’s transcript?

After prior learning has been evaluated, documentation will be submitted to the Records Office.  Once the Records Office has received it, credit will appear on the transcript within five business days. 

Does the University accept PLA credit transferred from other institutions?

Credit appearing on a transcript issued by a regionally-accredited institution will be accepted for transfer.  If so, when does it appear on the student’s transcript?  Credit will appear on the Tennessee State University transcript when the transcript is evaluated from the previous college(s).

How do CLEP tests appear on a student’s transcript?

CLEP credits will appear as transfer credit.  These grades are not computed in the student’s grade point average.

Does the University offer portfolio credits?


Does the University offer a course for students creating portfolios for assessment?

Yes. Tennessee State University offers an accelerated online 6-week course, CAEL 100, Prior Learning Assessment Theory and Practice Course (3 semester hours), which helps students identify areas of learning they may want to have evaluated for college-level equivalency.  This course is required and also guides the student through the preparation and compilation of all components required for the evaluation of a portfolio of prior learning through LearningCounts.

What is a passing score for CAEL 100?

Students must receive a 70% or higher in CAEL 100 to earn credit for the course.

Who assesses student portfolios?

CAEL-trained assessors evaluate the portfolios and make credit recommendations.

How long do you have to complete a my first portfolio?

Students have six months from the start of CAEL 100 to complete their first portfolio.

How do Portfolio credits appear on a student's transcript?

Portfolio credit recommendations are shown as Pass or No Credit.

How can I contact my PLA Advisor?

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