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Prior Learning Assessment

The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program helps translate adult learning experiences into college credit.

Stritch recognizes that college-level learning can occur in non-traditional environments and through diverse experiences. By awarding credit for such non-traditional learning experiences, Stritch lowers barriers and increases access for adult students in pursuit of life-long learning objectives, career advancement, or retraining opportunities. The PLA Office coordinates the assessment and awarding of credit via testing, military training, professional training portfolios, and/or experiential essays. Summary information for each of these options may be accessed below.

adult students on laptop

To facilitate your journey through the world of PLA, a Canvas "course" has been established. The pages within are the official medium through which students learn about, reflect on, prepare, and submit materials for assessment. Feedback from the Coordinator of PLA is provided throughout the experience, providing guidance and recommendations to assist students in their preparations. Access to the Canvas PLA course is free and open to registered students as well as returning degree completers and those exploring Stritch for the first time.

Current students can contact the PLA Coordinator or their academic advisor to request a link to the PLA page in Canvas.

If you are not a current student but are interested in pursuing PLA credit, call the PLA office to discuss your PLA options.

Testing options

Stritch accepts credit for competencies demonstrated through standardized testing programs. CLEP (College Level Examination Program) & DSST (formerly known as DANTES) are the two most common of such programs and offer numerous options in a variety of subject areas. Both recommend credit for scores equivalent to a grade of “C” or better.
A combined maximum of 60 credits of the allowable 60 credits for extra-institutional learning may be earned through the CLEP/DSST programs and applied to a bachelor's degree.

For information about testing centers, fees, subject content, requesting transcripts, or ordering study materials refer to the links below  
Download FAQ’s  
Download transfer guides  

Download Permission Form, an online non-profit educational alliance, offers students the opportunity to prepare for and take any of the 32 available CLEP exams for free! The program is called Freshman Year Free and is intended to help students across the country save money on freshmen-level college courses. Click the link below for more information about, or contact the PLA Coordinator with questions about this program.

Take a CLEP Exam for Free

Military education training

Cardinal Stritch University awards credit for military training and occupational experiences by applying Stritch transfer credit policies to American Council on Education (ACE) recommendations for military learning.

Past and present members of most branches of the armed forces will need to request an official Joint Services Transcript (JST).  These transcripts are free and typically take one business day to post and be released to the school.  Army, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, Reserves, and Coast Guard veterans and active-duty service-members will all use this one transcript.  (Air Force members see below.)

Up to 60 of the combined 60 allowable credits for all extra-institutional learning may be awarded directly from ACE recommendations.  However, credit is typically only transferred if it can be usefully applied to a student's degree.  In some cases we may elect not to transfer the maximum if those additional credits would not apply to graduation requirements.  Most military credit transfers as electives, but some direct course equivalencies may be granted based on the recommendations and the student's intended area of study.  Duplicate credit reflected on the transcript will not be transferred.  Additionally, credit noted as vocational will not transfer directly.  Students with vocational learning are referred to the portfolio option. 

Register for a JST account and request your transcript.*

Occasionally, JST's may not list all courses a student has completed.  Students are advised to follow the relevant service branch's instructions for updating or correcting a JST.  Consult the JST website below for instructions.  Additional documentation that may be used to establish completion of a military training course or duty classification includes Forms DD 214, 225, or 295.  Some courses may lack ACE recommendations, in which case transfer credit may not be awarded.  The portfolio may be an option for some of these courses.

Military learning for Air Force members is recorded on a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript.  The CCAF is a regionally accredited institution of higher learning and, as such, is treated identically to other accredited colleges and universities.  An official CCAF transcript should be requested at the time of application by visiting Air University.

Learn more about JST's, ACE evaluations, and transfer of military credit on the ACE website.

Or view the JST informational brochure.

*Your browser will likely warn you about a problem with the JST website's security certificate.  The Dept of Defense does not pay for browsers to recognize its certificate, but the site is secure.  Click to continue to the site if and when prompted.

Professional portfolios

Students with professional certifications/licenses and/or who have completed formal, non-collegiate or non-transferable coursework or training are encouraged to submit supporting documentation in a prior learning portfolio.

Examples of learning activities that are appropriate to submit in the portfolio are:
  • Employer-sponsored training programs
  • Technical or vocational courses
  • Professional and Continuing Education courses
  • Professional licenses
  • Certificate courses 
A total of 36 credits of the 60 allowable credits for extra–institutional learning may be earned through portfolio and/or experiential essays toward a bachelor’s degree.  Portfolios are assessed on campus using Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) standards, American Council on Education (ACE) credit recommendations, pre-assessed prior learning course information, and content expertise.

Full instructions regarding portfolio preparation, documentation, and submission may be found in the Canvas PLA course.

Experiential essays

The experiential learning essay is an option by which students may petition to receive credit for college-level learning gained through professional or personal experiences that have occurred outside of the formal classroom.
The 10-12 page essay demonstrates acquired theoretical knowledge and its practical application as measured against a parallel college course.
Essays are assessed on campus by content-area, expert evaluators, who are qualified to be instructors for the parallel course. Students provide letters of validation for their experience and demonstrate in essay form the learning acquired.  David Kolb's experiential learning model forms the theoretical foundation for the essays.  Kolb’s model requires students to identify their concrete experiences, make observations and reflections, identify college-level theory and principles from the literature, and explain evidence of application or transfer of learning.
Before composing the essay, students will need to obtain authorization from their academic counselor, the Coordinator of Prior Learning Assessment, and a faculty evaluator. 
Full instructions regarding essay composition and submission may be found in the Canvas PLA course.
The oral communication video option falls under general experiential essay policies, but due to its unique content, requires more specific demonstrations of practical skills and theoretical knowledge. Please refer to the Video Submission Guide for more details about this assessment.