About Prior Learning Assessment

NOTE: This option is not approved for Financial Aid or Veterans’ Benefits.


Prior learning assessment (PLA) is a flexible, efficient way of earning college credits for college-level knowledge students have acquired through expertise developed outside the classroom. Thomas Edison State University has already helped thousands of adults save countless in-class hours by earning credits based on their college-level knowledge acquired beyond the classroom. Moreover, these credit awards are honored in transfer by many other colleges and universities throughout the country.

PLA operates on the philosophy that college-level learning, no matter how it is gained, may warrant consideration for credit. Therefore, nearly any area of learning can be converted into college credit as long as it corresponds to what is taught in a course at an institutionally accredited college or university approved under the TESU Transfer Credit Policies and Guidelines, and students can demonstrate their expertise in it through the portfolio process.

With portfolio courses, students work with a mentor to determine what materials are appropriate for them to demonstrate college-level knowledge of the course content and outcomes. These courses require that the mentor approve credit based on prearranged criteria. No letter grade is assigned when credit is earned for PLA. To earn credit through PLA, students select a course in the subject in which they plan to demonstrate college-level knowledge. A PLA student, will demonstrate college-level knowledge of this subject by creating a PLA electronic portfolio or e-portfolio. Students have one 12-week semester in which to complete the PLA e-portfolio; which is developed under the guidance of a mentor. The narrative and supporting documentation compiled during the PLA will serve as proof of the student's college-level expertise and the value it has in the academic world. Such documentation can include evidence of learning gained from a wide variety of sources, but these are some of the most common sources used for prior learning assessment:

  • full- or part-time jobs
  • prior independent research
  • training programs or in-service courses
  • volunteer work
  • cultural and artistic pursuits
  • hobbies and recreational pastimes
  • community or religious activities
  • study abroad