Credit for Prior Learning

Have you dreamed of completing a degree you started long ago?  Is it overwhelming to consider beginning or returning to school after being out of the educational system for several years? The process may not be as difficult as you may think! You may be able to earn college credit for knowledge and skills you have gained from prior education and training, military experience, volunteer and life and work experiences. Prior learning assessment is a process that enables individuals to demonstrate what they have learned--usually through life and work experiences--and have that learning assessed for college credit.


Granting college credit based on assessment of a student’s prior learning in the workplace, military or through other life experiences can have positive impacts on college affordability, institutional capacity and student success. Legislation passed by the state of Washington, requires Clark College to collaborate with the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges in supporting the state goals for credit for prior learning.  Clark College is committed to fostering an educated and skilled workforce, which is essential for economic prosperity and meaningful work for the citizens in Clark’s service area.  Further, Clark College is dedicated to awarding credit for applicable learning experiences that can help more students complete their training and degree programs sooner by evaluating an individual’s existing knowledge and competencies for college credit. Students may be assessed through various processes that will determine the degree to which you have met the learning outcomes of the content in question. This could be a test, written assessment, oral interview, project, performance or another appropriate method by which the faculty member determines your understanding of the subject matter.


For the purposes of this policy:


Prior Learning

Prior Learning as defined by the Washington State Legislature, is the “knowledge and skills gained through work and life experience; through military training and experience; and through formal and informal education and training from in-state and out-of-state institutions including foreign institutions.” (RCW 28B.77.230).  For purposes of this policy, does not include regular credit-bearing courses from regionally accredited institutions of higher education, normally accepted for transfer credit or International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) credits earned while in high school.


Prior Experiential Learning

Prior Experiential Learning includes the skills, knowledge and attitudes gained through non-formal (mainly work based) and informal (life experience) means.


Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) may be accomplished through standardized tests, course challenge examinations, demonstration of competency through portfolio, performance or other means; and cross-walks between work-based learning and college courses.


Credit for Prior Learning (CPL)

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is the academic credit awarded and transcribed as a result of a student’s documented demonstration through assessment that applicable course outcomes are met as a result of their prior learning experience(s).



Credit for Prior Learning Policy:


1. Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) may be awarded for documented experiential learning outside the college upon the recommendation of appropriately qualified teaching faculty.  Appropriately qualified faculty hold credentials substantiating their experience, training and degrees commensurate with their designated career and professional areas and disciplines.  Documentation may be in the form of, but not limited to, a licensure or certification document, a transcript or a portfolio project that demonstrates that learning outcomes have been accomplished.  Experiential learning outside the college may include volunteer and community involvement experiences, military service, cooperative education, work experience, business and industry certifications, and other applicable life experiences. 


2. Credits may only be determined and awarded upon the recommendation of appropriately qualified teaching faculty to ensure that the learning experiences fall within the regular applicable course outcomes of the college.


3. No more than 25% of degree or certificate requirements can be satisfied by CPL credit. 


4. Prior learning assessment processes, procedures and associated fees will be communicated to potential students through publication on the Clark College website and in the college catalog.


5. Clark College will track data on the number of students awarded credit for prior learning including, but not limited to: the number of credits awarded for prior learning, types of assessment methods used, and associated costs to the students.  This data, as well as other required information, will be submitted to the Washington Student Achievement Council as required.


6. Documentation for all prior learning assessments will be kept in accordance with the Washington Student Achievement Council and state archiving requirements.



The following restrictions also apply to the awarding of prior learning credits:


Advanced Placement (AP)

International Baccalaureate (IB)

College Level Examination Program (CLEP)

Military Experience

Cooperative Education Work Experience

Tech Prep / Direct Credit

Special Projects (Independent Study)

Course Challenge


For more information contact Kim Marshel, Associate Director of Credit Articulation, at (360) 992-2358 or