Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process for earning college-level credit for learning that takes place outside of the college or university setting. The Mount is committed to responding to the need for lifelong learning by providing a full range of educational services adapted to the needs of adult students. PLA credit can be awarded based upon career experiences, community service, military service, structured educational programs, self-taught skills, and even travel.

The Mount regards PLA as a process of self-assessment for the student with the purpose of receiving credit. The following guidelines/policies have been established:

  • Only matriculated students seeking a degree or pursuing a certificate at the Mount are eligible to apply for a possible award of PLA credit.
  • PLA credit must fit within the student’s degree requirements.
  • No more than half of the total credit hours required for graduation can be awarded.
  • PLA credit earned at the Mount may or may not transfer to other institutions.
  • Duplication of credit is not permitted.
  • Credits earned through PLA neither fulfill nor interrupt the residency requirements.
  • Credits cannot be counted toward the 45 semester hours of coursework needed for graduation with honors (See graduation with honors section of the catalog for information).

General Policies

The PLA Process

The first step in the PLA process is for the student to have a conversation with their academic advisor to see if pursuing PLA makes sense and is a viable option for their academic plan. From there, the student should contact the Career Center to discuss the prior experiences and learning. Sometimes much of what is learned, no matter how useful, may not qualify as college-level learning or the learning may not demonstrate the depth to be included in a degree program. If the Career Center feels the student’s learning is college level, they will discuss the student’s options for earning credit through PLA at the Mount, as referenced in our course catalog.

PLA Options

Credit by Credential Evaluation

Students who have completed structured education programs in the armed forces, nursing, business, or industry may present official credentials for review for a possible direct award of credit. All credit awarded will be general elective credit. There is no fee for credit by credential evaluation.


Credit by Validation Process

Validation is an option for students who have significant experience related to their chosen major outside of the traditional classroom. The knowledge and skills acquired must be comparable to learning outcomes in a course offered at the Mount.

Validation for Work Experience is an option for non-traditional students who have current work experience related to their degree.

Validation for Service Learning is an option for non-traditional students who have prior service experience.

Acquired experience in either option is used to demonstrate that the learning objectives for the experiential learning requirement have been achieved. The experience must also relate to a minimum of two (2) Mount courses the student has completed within the past two years or in which he/she/they are currently enrolled.

Each validation option grants between one and nine general elective credits and satisfies the core experiential learning requirement. Fees for each type of validation evaluation are $80 for the evaluation fee (which also includes the first credit hour awarded) and $20 for each additional credit hour.


Credit by Portfolio Process

The portfolio process is an option for students who have gained significant college-level learning outside the classroom setting. Learning acquired through non-credit courses, workshops, online courses, self-taught knowledge or skills, career/work experiences, volunteer work, community service, travel, leadership roles in associations and organizations, or personal life experiences might qualify. The knowledge and skills acquired must be comparable to learning outcomes in a course offered at the Mount for course credit to be granted. Fees for portfolio evaluations are $90 for the evaluation (which also includes the first credit hour awarded) and $90 for each additional credit hour awarded.


Departmental Exam

On a limited basis, departmental exams are prepared and monitored by MSJ faculty or consultants designated by the faculty. Exams are given at the discretion of the academic department and may be oral, written, or by performance. Not all departments accept this method as a process for awarding credit for prior learning. Fees are $80 per exam (includes the first credit hour awarded) and $20 for each additional credit hour.


Credit by Examination

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) ( is a national program offering a variety of standardized tests to earn college credit. CLEP exams are taken pass/fail. Please see the list of CLEP tests below accepted by the Mount and their course equivalencies. CLEP charges $93 per CLEP exam and the test center may charge an additional registration fee.

Additional CLEP Information

  • All students are required to contact their academic advisors before registering for the exam.
  • Students register for the CLEP exam through the College Board website ( and have the scores sent to the Mount.
  • CLEP’s policy requires that students who fail an exam wait a minimum of three months before repeating the exam.
  • Any questions about CLEP exams?  Please contact the Career & Experiential Education Center at 513-244-4888 or

Revised 12/4/2023

For more information

For more information on PLA, please contact:
Career and Experiential Education Center

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

American Council on Education

College Level Examination Program