SP 9-42 – Prior Learning Assessment Credit

Colorado Community College System / System Procedure

SP 9-42

EFFECTIVE: April 15, 1989
REVISED: July 1, 1997
REVISED: August 3, 2000
RETITLED: September 14, 2000
RETITLED: August 25, 2001
REVISED: March 10, 2010
REVISED: March 28, 2016
RETITLED: March 28, 2016
REVISED: November 29, 2017

REFERENCE: BP 9-42, Prior Learning Assessment Credit


/ Nancy J. McCallin /
Nancy McCallin, Ph.D.
System President


This procedure applies to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Credit at the Community Colleges within the Colorado Community College System (CCCS or System).


Board Policy (BP) 9-42, Prior Learning Assessment Credit, requires the System President to promulgate procedures as necessary to implement this policy.


The prior learning addressed in this procedure is defined as knowledge or skills that have been attained outside the traditional academic environment and that have not been previously evaluated for and awarded college credit.


  1. Publicizing PLA Credit Opportunities To Students
    • Students should have clear and concise information concerning how PLA Credit may help them.
    • Each college will provide students with information necessary to seek PLA Credit and will publish procedures on how to do so.
    • Information will be available for new students, as well as currently enrolled and returning students and any person seeking information about the institution.
  2. Standards for Awarding PLA Credit
    • PLA Credit is not awarded for experience, but rather for college level learning which entails knowledge, skills and competencies that students have obtained as a result of their prior learning experiences.
    • Once a student has been admitted to the College and has chosen a program of study, the student becomes eligible for PLA Credit.
    • Academic credit will be awarded only for those courses directly applicable to the student’s declared program as outlined in college publications.
    • A student may use PLA Credit to fulfill any degree, certificate or graduation requirement, but a mandatory 25% of credit must be earned at the College that will confer the degree or certificate.
    • All work assessed for PLA Credit must meet or exceed “C” level work. Minimum cut-off scores on standardized tests are set at “C” level work.
    • PLA Credit will be assessed by faculty subject matter experts as determined by the College.
  3. Methods for Awarding PLA Credit: Approved methods available for awarding PLA Credit include: Standardized Tests, Institutional Challenge Examinations, Published Guides, Portfolios and successful completion of a CCCS approved Colorado Department of Corrections CTE certificate program.
    • Standardized Tests
      • National standardized tests such as The College Board College Level Examination Program (CLEP), both general and subject examinations; Advanced Placement Program (AP); and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.
      • DSST Exams (formerly known as DANTES Exams); UExcel Exams (formerly known as Excelsior College Examinations); and other nationally recognized industry testing, training, licensing or certification programs.
    • Institutional Challenge Examinations
      • Institutionally approved examinations, such as objective tests, essays, and oral, hands-on or simulated demonstrations will be used to evaluate the student’s competencies specific to the course being challenged.
      • Institutional challenge examinations are the equivalent of a comprehensive final examination for the course being challenged.
    • Published Guides: The System accepts credit recommendations for both military and industry evaluated training programs and credentials from the following local and nationally recognized entities.
      • Educational Experience in the Armed Services as documented on the Joint Services Transcript (JST): The credit recommendations of the American Council on Education (ACE), as published in The Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services, will be used to evaluate military training and learning experiences.
      • ACE Workforce Training as documented on the ACE Transcript: National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training.
      • Workforce and other Non-Accredited Training as documented on The National College Credit Recommendations Service (NCCRS) transcript. In the event of conflicting credit recommendations between the ACE and NCCRS organizations for the same training or credential, the ACE recommendations will take precedence.
      • Faculty Evaluated Local Industry and Workplace Training: Individual colleges may use information obtained through their own prior learning assessment evaluations for local industry and training programs. As appropriate, these evaluations should be shared with other colleges to support students moving around the state.
  4. Portfolios: Knowledge and skills acquired through work and life experiences may be validated through a formal portfolio assessment process.
    • Development of Portfolio
      • Upon request from a student, each College will provide a course, workshop, or orientation session designed to assist students in identifying, describing and documenting skills and knowledge gained through prior learning experiences. Each College will also provide, upon request, more detailed information regarding the required format of the portfolio. When developing their portfolios, students must address each of the evaluative criteria delineated below:
        • The learning must be demonstrable and verifiable;
        • The learning content must have both theoretical and applied components;
        • The learning must be college level;
        • The learning must be currently applicable to the student’s certificate or degree requirements; and
        • The learning must be equivalent to the competencies of a specific course or courses.
    • Evaluation of Portfolio
      • Evaluation of the portfolio will be conducted by subject matter expert(s), designated by the System or College.
      • The portfolio work must be evaluated as “C” level or above and contain evidence of proficiency in the competencies in the course(s), in order to award academic credit.
      • The evaluator should be prepared to produce documentation to defend the evaluation, including rubrics and notes. No partial credit will be awarded.
      • The student may appeal the evaluation decision according to the appeal process outlined in the CCCS PLA Credit Manual. Colleges are responsible for developing the process and publicizing information to students.
  5. Transfer of Credit
    • Within the System: PLA Credit must be accepted for transfer amongst all colleges, provided that the credits apply to a degree or certificate program at the institution the student is entering.
    • To State Colleges and Universities: Transfer guides and articulation agreements shall include information on the transfer of PLA Credit as stipulated in the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) Policy and General Procedures for Transfer.
  6. PLA Credit Crosswalk Matrix
    • The System President or designee shall be responsible for maintaining and updating a comprehensive PLA Credit Crosswalk Matrix document for recognized Standardized Test, Published Guide and Faculty Evaluated Local Industry and Workplace Training crosswalks, which have been assessed by CCCS faculty and found to be equivalent to CCNS courses. These assessments must meet all evaluation criteria outlined in the CCCS PLA Credit Manual. Requests for revision should be made to the System President or designee.
  7. Colorado Department of Corrections
    • A student who completes coursework at Colorado Department of Corrections facility may transfer any career and technical postsecondary course credits with a grade of “C” or better earned, while enrolled in the approved program. These eligible career/technical credits may be applied to the requirements of a program leading to a certificate or to an Associate of Applied Science or an Associate of General Studies degree at a Community College within CCCS. Transfer is limited to Career and Technical (CTE) coursework.
    • Post-Secondary credits accepted in transfer from the Colorado Department of Corrections must come from a State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE) approved CTE certificate program and be instructed by CCCS credentialed faculty.
    • An annual review of Department of Correction programs will be completed by the CCCS Chief Academic Officer/Provost or her/his designee.
  8. Military Education and Training
    • Each College will provide active duty and veteran military students with specific guidance to help them select a program of study that optimizes the use of their prior learning assessment credit toward a degree or certificate completion.
  9. Additional Provisions
    • Posting of Credit: A student may apply for PLA Credit at any time, as long as the student is admitted and has identified a program of study to which the PLA Credit will apply.
    • FTE Considerations: Credits awarded for prior learning will not be counted for FTE enrollments or state entitlement.
    • Records and Transcripts: Official transcripts shall designate all PLA Credit awarded. Such credit shall be identified by specific course, number of semester credit hours, and PLA Credit method of award. No letter grades will be posted for PLA Credit. All documentation used as a basis for PLA Credit awarded will be maintained by the college consistent with institutional policies on record retention.
    • Cost: Colleges may charge assessment fees to the student based on the method of assessment and as determined in the PLA Credit Cost Matrix in the CCCS PLA Credit Manual.
      The evaluation fee to be charged shall not exceed 50% of the standard tuition rate per credit.
    • Students should be given the information necessary to understand that PLA Credit fees are non-refundable, even if the student fails to earn credit.
    • Students should be given the information necessary to understand that requests for re-evaluation will be charged at the same rate as first time assessments.


CCCS reserves the right to change any provision or requirement of this procedure at any time and the change shall become effective immediately.