Earning College Credit for Your Prior Learning Experience

Learning occurs throughout a person's life and work experiences. To recognize college-level learning students achieve outside of formal higher education, SAU Tech relies on the following policies and procedures to ensure that Credit for Prior Learning (CPL), also known as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA), practices are consistent with academic integrity and responsive to lifelong learners.

The term “credit for prior learning” (CPL) refers to all of the processes SAU Tech uses to review, evaluate, and award academic credit based upon evidence of learning in accordance with academic and administrative standards. CPL is awarded for demonstrated proficiency in college-level learning. This entails systematically evaluating the knowledge, skills, and competencies students have obtained from their learning experiences outside of higher education.


In order to apply for CPL, the student must be an active SAU Tech certificate or degree-seeking student.

Credit for Prior Learning Award Process

  1. Various assessment methods measure the student’s ability to demonstrate proficiency in learning outcomes associated with existing courses.
  2. CPL will only be awarded for courses directly applicable to program requirements in the student’s declared certificate or degree as specified in college publications and is consistent with other institutional policies.
  3. A student must be registered for coursework at the time of the awarding of CPL. (The Vice Chancellor for Academics may grant exceptions.)
  4. CPL will be evaluated only at the request of the student.
  5. Students must still meet the minimum academic residency requirement for any certificate or degree. Residency requirements are the minimum number of credit hours a student must earn from SAU Tech to graduate. CPL credits earned through challenge exams, credit by examination, and portfolio assessment are applied toward academic residency requirements; however, CPL credits earned via any other method are considered transfer credits and do not count toward academic residency requirements. CPL may not be used to fulfill more than half of the required credits for a degree or certificate.

Financial Aid

Financial aid does not cover the costs of CPL. However, credit hours awarded through CPL methods may affect financial aid and veterans’ benefits. Credit hours awarded through CPL methods count toward the total earned hours that a student has acquired and the 150% rule. Students should consult with a financial aid advisor to determine how credits earned through CPL may affect them prior to requesting any CPL.

Assessment Methods for Prior Learning

  1. Standardized Exams: Credit will be awarded for passing scores on some national for-credit examination programs, such as College Board Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams.
  2. Credit by Examination: Institutionally-prepared exams developed for specific SAU Tech courses to validate that a student’s prior learning meets the learning outcomes of the course being challenged.
  3. Challenge Examination: Institutionally-prepared exams developed for specific SAU Tech courses to validate that a student’s prior learning meets the learning outcomes of the course being challenged.
  4. Aviation Maintenance Technology Program: SAU Tech has developed guidelines for awarding credit for prior learning based on FAA certification.
  5. Arkansas Fire Training Academy: AFTA is a division of SAU Tech. Students who complete training through the Academy are able to earn credit toward credential completion.
  6. Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy: Students who have completed the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy (ALETA) are eligible to earn 28 hours for the training toward completing the Professional Studies Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in Law Enforcement emphasis.
  7. Portfolio Assessment: Portfolios consist of documentation and corresponding narrative submitted for credit that comprehensively demonstrates proficiency in the learning outcomes for a particular course. Individual portfolios are assessed using current SAU Tech standards. If an approved standardized or challenge exam exists, SAU Tech may choose not to offer a CPL portfolio option.

Application of the Credit for Prior Learning Award

Credits awarded through CPL will be applied to program requirements in the following ways:

  1. CPL credits are applied to degree or program requirements like other credits earned at SAU Tech. Please refer to the CPL Award section of this document for further information.
  2. SAU Tech awards credit for prior learning only for courses or programs for which there are active SAU Tech catalog listings.
  3. SAU Tech will assign the appropriate SAU Tech course title(s) and number(s) to the credit(s) awarded. Neutral grades of CR (credit) for challenge exams or portfolios, or TR (transfer credit), for all other assessment methods, will be utilized and will not affect a student’s GPA. Traditional letter grades are not assigned for CPL awards.
  4. Portfolio assessment credit will not be recorded on a transcript until the GS 1021 Portfolio Development course and the semester in which portfolio credit was requested have been completed. (Exception for Aviation: Credits are escrowed and placed on the transcript at the completion of remaining A.A.S. degree requirements.)
  5. Earned credit is transcribed onto the student’s record within 10 business days of the award.

Transferability of Credit for Prior Learning

CPL is granted for the purpose of satisfying SAU Tech graduation requirements. These credits may not be accepted at other colleges and universities. Students are responsible for contacting the institution to which they intend to transfer to determine its policy on accepting CPL awarded at SAU Tech.

SAU Tech reserves the right to evaluate, apply, or deny CPL awarded at another institution. CPL, or PLA (prior learning assessment), awarded at another institution, is evaluated case-by-case. Students should contact his/her academic advisor.

For more information, contact Dr. Valerie Wilson, SAU Tech Vice Chancellor for Academics & Planning at vwilson@sautech.edu.