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Prior Learning Assessment Process

Learning obtained outside the classroom can be assessed and documented through a variety of types of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). Learning gained outside the college classroom can occur in a variety of settings, which can include workplace learning, military training and service, industry-recognized certifications, and examinations. PLA in Colorado with transfer guarantees (i.e., GT Pathways) include Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), Defense of Language Proficiency Test (DLPT), DANTES Subject Standardized Test (DSST), military occupations, and portfolio review.  

For questions about Prior Learning Assessment, please contact Dr. Chris Rasmussen


HB20-1002 College Credit for Prior Work Experience

HB20-1002 charged the Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) to expand opportunities for students to earn college credit for learning that takes place outside the classroom verified through an industry credential, examination, or other demonstrations of college-level knowledge, skills, and competencies. CCHE worked with the General Education (GE) Council to create a plan to award postsecondary academic credit, where appropriate, for learning demonstrated from work-related experience. 

Implementation Plan

Step One: Credentials are presented for consideration 

  • Credentials are presented for consideration FROM any interested party, including current or potential students, credential providers, employers (e.g., individual business/company) or other interested parties (e.g., faculty in a specific academic program) TO any of these entities, including institutions where students are enrolled or have been accepted for admission or for parties other than students, the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) or the Colorado Community College System (CCCS)

Step Two: Determine whether credentials meet minimum criteria for consideration 

  • For credentials presented to CDHE, presenters will complete an as-yet developed intake form that will outline criteria (not applicable to students)
  • Criteria may include alignment with National Skills Coalition criteria on quality non-degree credentials for consideration for evaluation: 
    • Is the credential aligned to an occupation on a regional or statewide list of in-demand or critical occupations (using the Colorado Talent Pipeline Report as a resource); if YES:
    • The Department may use criteria for prioritizing which credentials are evaluated and in what order the evaluations occur, including whether the credential meets two out of the following four criteria:
      • Provider is accredited or credential is recognized by an accrediting body
      • Credential has the potential to stack into an existing degree or certificate program
      • Credential is traceable to competencies (valid) or to the provider (verified)
      • Credential has potential for portability
    • Credential providers will be encouraged to register with the ETPL (Eligible Training Provider List); in the future, this may be required for consideration

  If credential meets minimum criteria proceed to Step 3

  If credential does not meet minimum criteria, CDHE communicates such to credential presenter

Step Three: CCCS or other institution or higher education (IHE) evaluates work-based learning for college credit or other alignment with a postsecondary program

  • Possible outcomes include alignment with a specific GT Pathways category with recommendation to GE Council for consideration for statewide transfer; equivalency with a specific course that is part of a statewide transfer articulation agreement (STAA) with recommendation to GE Council for consideration for statewide transfer (CCCS only); or no statewide transfer credit equivalency is recommended. 
  • Note: CCCS or an individual IHE may determine that a credential is equivalent to another course or course in the curriculum (in either a degree or a certificate program - equivalency will not be part of statewide transfer, but institutions could enter into articulation agreements with individual partners)

Step Four: Validation and affirmation for statewide transfer

  • If Step 3 resulted in alignment with a specific GT Pathways category or equivalency with a specific course that is part of a STAA, CCCS or other IHE submits proposal to CDHE for review; CDHE brings proposal to GE Council 
  • GE Council reviews proposals, recommendations, and determines the scope of faculty consultation required

Step Five: Documentation and communication

  • For GT Pathways: CDHE adds equivalency to crosswalk included on its webpage where other credit-for-prior-learning crosswalks are posted
  • For STAAs: CDHE updates STAA document to indicate credit-for-prior-learning opportunities for individual courses
  • For course equivalencies that are not part of statewide transfer frameworks: CCCS or other IHEs update their own websites/crosswalks and communicate internally and externally

HB17-1004 College Credit for Military Education and Training

HB17-1007 charged the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) to adapt a statewide policy for awarding college-level credit for learning that was acquired in the military. During this time, CCHE worked with the General Education (GE) Council and the American Council on Education to review Joint Service Transcript (JST)-Military Courses and Occupations to approve a list of course equivalencies.   


At its May 8, 2015 meeting the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) approved a process to develop a statewide policy for prior learning assessment (PLA). The first phase of this process, for which we are seeking faculty input, is to consider common statewide cut scores on Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams for which students will be awarded general education/gtPathways credit. (Awarding credit as it applies to the major is the next phase).

PLA Webinars on CLEP & DSST for Faculty - February 3 & 4, 2016

Research and Other States' Policies

Exam and Course Guides

Note that AP has one “course and exam description” for each of its exams. IB, on the other hand, has a 2-3 page “curriculum brief” as well as a lengthier “curriculum guide” for each exam, and for both the Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) versions. As explained in the curriculum guides, the Higher Level courses and exams require greater work of students in quality and quantity and successfully passing.

CLEP Exam and Course Guides - To access:
1. Send an e-mail to  
2. In the subject Line of email type - "CLEP Resource Center access request"
3. Include the following information in your email:
• Your name
• Institution
• Title
• Email address


DSST Exam Fact Sheets with Content Outline available here

DSST Exam and Course Guides available here

Click here for more information on Advanced Placement on College Board’s website.

Click here for more information on International Baccalaureate at its website.

Click here for more information on CLEP.

Click here for more information on DSST.