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Prior Learning Assessment

It is possible to grant students college credit towards a degree for what they have learned from such experiences as (1) life experience, (2) work experience, (3) correspondence courses, (4) testing programs, (5) military service, and/or (6) non-accredited educational coursework from trade schools, technical institutes, business colleges, etc. This has the potential to reduce the amount of time it takes them to earn a UIW School of Applied Sciences degree.

What is PLA?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a method of documenting a student’s experiences and to learn more about the knowledge gained from those experiences. The university does not grant credit for experience alone. The student must demonstrate an understanding of theory and application as they pertain to a specific set of competencies. To begin, we don't automatically rule out any experience the student has undertaken as an adult! If you have learning experience, it is possible you may be eligible to document the learning that occurred through these experiences to receive college credit.

UIW offers several ways to document prior learning:

  • Credit is awarded via ACE (American Council of Education) approved courses;
  • Equivalency tests such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and DSST (formerly the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Students (DANTES)) tests;
  • Challenge Exams such as the Computer Literacy Equivalency Test; and
  • A portfolio documenting acquired knowledge. This process is a preparation of a portfolio detailing the knowledge acquired from the student’s experiences. The student is required to demonstrate how prior learning equates to college level learning matching the competencies of a specific course or courses. The portfolio is not something that should be taken lightly. It may take weeks or many hours of the student’s time, on their own schedule. For many, this process can be very rewarding.

For students to receive credit they will need to demonstrate that they understand the concepts, theories, principles, and models of the chosen subject as well as the practical applications associated with the subject. For instance, a Church Treasurer wants to request credit for Accounting I. It's not just enough for the Church Treasurer to have paid the bills every week for the past eight years (experience), but he/she must also demonstrate to the satisfaction of the faculty evaluator that he/she has the knowledge and understanding of established accounting principles and theories (learning) that would equate to the course content of Accounting I as offered at the University.


  • Students who have at least 24 credit hours in total may submit a portfolio. The objective is for students to present a paper worthy of the level of credit we are assessing. A student with this number of credits should have completed their composition courses, as well as other courses that will produce a well-written portfolio using a logical thoughtful process.
  • Students must be matriculated to UIW, have all official transcripts on file and articulated, and complete 12 credit hours of UIW coursework before submitting a portfolio for evaluation.
  • The portfolio may be started before the completion of 12 hours, but such a portfolio may not be submitted until they have accumulated a minimum of 12 credit hours at the university.

Criteria for accepting credits

  • Portfolios may NOT be submitted for any course for which an equivalency test (CLEP or DANTES) or Challenge Exam exists so redundancy can be eliminated.
  • Students may apply a maximum of 24 credit hours earned through portfolio submission toward a bachelor's degree.
  • The award of credits will not be used as residency or the required 42 upper division credits.
  • Because of the time required for submission and evaluation, students may NOT submit a portfolio during their last semester.
  • Students will pay $125 per credit requested for the submission, evaluation, and award of portfolio credits, in addition to the cost of the three-hour portfolio course.

Student Preliminary Steps

  • Search through the University of Incarnate Word Academic Catalog for courses that cover material you feel you already know. For example, a manager of a unit in a large company could probably document learning for Human Resources Management.
  • The student should look at their resume and in the side margin write notes about the specific jobs, tasks, and responsibilities they have had for specific positions.
  • Consult with their adviser about enrolling for the next portfolio preparation course at the prevailing tuition rate for a three-hour class, for planning of the portfolio and to obtain the objectives and outcomes of the course(s).

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