5.302 - Prior Learning Assessment Program

UHCC Policy Chapter 5, Academic Affairs
UHCC Policy 5.302, Prior Learning Assessment Program
Effective Date: December 2015
Prior Dates Amended: April 2018 (recodified)
Responsible Office: Office of the Vice President for Community Colleges
Governing Board of Regents Policy: Board of Regents Policy, RP 5.214, Student and Credit Transfer within the University
Review Date: February 2021

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I. Purpose: 

This policy describes and outlines the terms and conditions under which the University of Hawai‘i Community Colleges (UHCC) through its Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program award college credit towards certificates or degrees based on prior learning. Policy serves to ensure academic integrity is maintained through program consistency and transparency.

II. Definitions: 

  1. Prior Learning – Describes the skills, competencies, knowledge and learning individuals acquire through life, work experiences, training programs and formal and informal education.
  2. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) – Describes the assessment of college level learning that has been acquired outside a traditional academic environment for college credit. There are different forms of assessments but credit for prior learning must only be awarded to students who demonstrate knowledge, skills and performance at the college level.
  3. Equivalency Exams – College-level exams yielding college credit for specific subject areas developed by institutions, private organizations or government agencies (i.e., AP, CLEP, DSST, UExcel). In the University of Hawai‘i (UH) System, Credit by Institutional Exam (CBIE) is another form of equivalency exams and are created by UH faculty for specific courses.
  4. Non-Collegiate Sponsored Education – Learning sponsored by institutions and organizations whose primary focus is not education such as private industry, labor unions, professional associations, voluntary associations, state and federal government agencies (military training, federal or state certified professionals).
  5. Portfolio Based Assessment (PBA) – College credit awarded by the assessment of a student’s learning through an evaluation of a portfolio demonstrating a student’s documented learning, certifications, licensures, work samples, awards, honors, job descriptions, job accomplishments, evidence of self-directed study or work. This type of assessment may also incorporate performance and skills evaluations and faculty interviews of students.

III. Executive Policy: 

  1. Methods of Earning Credit for Prior Learning
    1. A list of some of the more commonly accepted methods of earning credit for prior learning is provided below. It is anticipated that new methods of earning credit for prior learning and new forms of assessment may develop. Therefore, this list is not exhaustive and this policy is not limited to only the methods mentioned below.
      1. Credit by Institutional Examination (CBIE)
      2. Examinations created by UHCC faculty allow students to challenge a specific course for college credit.
  2. National Equivalency Exams
    1. Advanced Placement Examination Program (AP) – Series of exams developed by the College Board for high school students to earn college credit while in High School.
    2. College Level Examination Program (CLEP) – Series of standardized subject exams developed by the College Board to assess college-level learning for college credit.
    3. Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Subject Standardized Tests – DSSTs are standardized subject exams developed to assess college-level knowledge for college credit originally limited to members of the armed forces but now available to civilians.
    4. Excelsior College Examination (UExcel) Program – Formerly named Regents College Exams or American College Testing (ACT) Proficiency Examination Program (PEP), UExcel exams are standardized subject exams offered by Excelsior College for college credit.
  3. Non-Collegiate Sponsored Education
    1. American Council on Education (ACE) Guides – Published credit recommendations for formal instructional programs and examinations offered by non-collegiate agencies (military, civilian employers, professional associations, and other workplace related training).
    2. ACE Military Credit Recommendations – College credit recommendations for military training through the American Council on Education’s Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services or through direct evaluation of a service member’s Joint Service Transcript.
    3. Evaluation of Industry Certifications and Workplace Credit – Evaluation of non-collegiate instructional programs or industry recognized certifications, professional licensures or apprenticeships that demonstrate the competencies required for completion of a course, degree or certificate program.
  4. Portfolio Based Assessment (PBA)
    1. College credit awarded by the assessment of a student’s learning through an evaluation of a portfolio demonstrating a student’s documented learning, certifications, licensures, work samples, awards, honors, job descriptions, job accomplishments, evidence of self-directed study or work. This type of assessment may also incorporate performance and skills evaluations and faculty interviews of students.
  5. Responsibilities
    1. Responsibility for creating, implementing and maintaining a PLA Program in compliance with this policy resides with all participating UH Colleges and Universities. The Chancellor shall be responsible for:
      1. Periodic Review of Prior Learning Assessment Programs
        1. Institutions are to review PLA Program related policies, procedures and data gathered periodically. All reviews must include evaluating the effectiveness of each institution’s PLA related policies, procedures and credit awards/denial to ensure consistency with PLA standards (Attachment A).
      2. Program Transparency
        1. All effort must be made to ensure all aspects of the PLA Program are made available to students, faculty, staff, academic administration and the general public. It is recommended that printed and electronic materials be published and made available in a clear and transparent manner. Recommended information for publications:
          1. Description of PLA Program
          2. Limitations of credits earned for Prior Learning
          3. PLA Program Definitions
          4. PLA Program Language in College Catalog
          5. Student Advising
          6. Student Expectations and Participation
          7. Student Qualifications
          8. Transferability of credit earned for Prior Learning
          9. Tuition & Fees
          10. Uses of Credits earned for Prior Learning
          11. Web Page with PLA Program Information
          12. Appeals Procedures
  6. Standards
    1. Maintaining standards and consistency among the UH System is paramount to ensure student academic development and success. Consequently, understanding that although each UH campus operates collaboratively among the UH System, each campus also operates individually and processes between campuses differ. To ensure consistency in policy and allow for campus autonomy in developing campus-specific procedures to successfully develop, implement and maintain a PLA program, colleges must maintain the following standards:
      1. Requirements for awarding credit for Prior Learning
        1. Students must at least be admitted to the institution.
        2. Students must consult with their academic counselor.
        3. Students must declare an academic program of study.
    2. Parameters of awarding credit for Prior Learning
      1. Any credits awarded for Prior Learning must be in accordance with the standards and guidelines established by the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL). CAEL standards are recognized and endorsed by Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and all other regional accrediting bodies.
      2. Credit for Prior Learning shall not be used to meet the 12 credit minimum residency requirement for graduation according to UHCCP 5.208 – Residency for Graduation.
      3. Criteria for awarding credit should be demonstrated mastery of student learning outcomes at a “C” level or higher.
      4. Academic programs must make public any limitations to the number of credits earned from prior learning which can be applied to certificates or degrees.
      5. No other limitations are to be placed on student eligibility for credits for prior learning, such as minimum age or work experience. However, the college is responsible for ensuring potential students are those who are most likely to be able to successfully demonstrate their prior learning.
  7. Use of credits earned for Prior Learning
    1. Credits earned for Prior Learning apply towards primary and secondary majors, general education requirements and electives that are applicable to degree or certificate requirements being sought in the same manner as traditional courses. These credits will also satisfy prerequisites in the same manner as their traditional course equivalencies and shall not be treated differently in their application unless otherwise specified by the awarding college (Attachment B).
    2. Credits earned for Prior Learning can be utilized to satisfy academic areas where letter grades are required only with written authorization and approval from the Department/Division Chair of the student’s declared academic program.
  8. Transcription of credits earned for Prior Learning
    1. Credits earned for Prior Learning by the use of the following assessment methods will be posted on student transcripts as institutional credit:
      1. Credit by Institutional Exam (CBIE) – Credit for Prior Learning earned by completing and passing a Credit by Institutional Exam will receive a grade of “CE” – Credit by Institutional Exam.
      2. Portfolio-Based Assessment (PBA) – Credit for Prior Learning earned by Portfolio-Based Assessment will receive a grade of “PBA” – Portfolio-Based Assessment.
    2. Credits awarded for Prior Learning from Non-Collegiate Sponsored Education will be posted on student transcripts as transfer credit:
    3. Examples of Non-Collegiate Sponsored Education – Military training, ACE Credit Recommendations, industry certifications or National Equivalency Exams (CLEP, AP, DSST, UExcel).
  9. Transferability of credits earned from Prior Learning
    1. The transferring of credits earned from Prior Learning to other UH Community Colleges, UH Hilo, UH Maui College and UH West O'ahu and any other non-UH school will be at the discretion of the receiving institution (Attachment B).
  10. Fees
    1. Fees may be assessed for such PLA forms as CBIE and PBA (Attachment C).

V. Contact Information: 

Subject Matter Experts

Office of the Vice President for Community Colleges, telephone number 956-7038 or email at jmorton@hawaii.edu

VI. References: 

  1. Board Board of Regents Policy, RP 5.214, Student and Credit Transfer within the University
  2. University of Hawai‘i Systemwide Executive Policy EP 5.209 , Student Transfer and Inter-Campus Articulation PDF icon
  3. University of Hawai‘i Community College Policy: UHCCP 5.208 – Residency for Graduation.

VII. Exhibits and Appendices: 

A. Attachment A – The 10 CAEL Standards for Assessing Learning
B. Attachment B – Memorandum of Understanding for Acceptance of PLA Credit
C. Attachment C – Cost of Credit by Institutional Exam and Portfolio Based Assessment

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