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Prior Learning Assessment

Due to changes in the PLA program, the PLA 3920 course will no longer be offered starting Fall Semester 2022.

Course Description

The Utah State Board of Regents (formerly USHE) has defined Prior Learning as ”knowledge, competencies, and skills acquired through formal or informal education outside a traditional academic environment or at the initiative of the individual learner.”

Southern Utah University’s Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) course provides an opportunity for students to earn up to 15 upper-division, elective credits by developing a portfolio or written summary of their formal or informal educational experiences. This course is a 6-week, online, self-service course where credit can be earned by documenting a variety of past educational experiences.

SUU realizes that students come from many walks of life, backgrounds, and experiences and recognizes the intentional educational efforts of each student both academically, and professionally. If you are getting close to graduation, or if you simply want to get a jumpstart on your elective credits, the PLA program can help accelerate your degree and prepare you for a successful career.

Please read through the FAQ section completely before reaching out or registering for the PLA 3920 course.

How Does PLA Benefit Me?

There are several benefits for PLA 3920:

  • The cost per credit is significantly less in comparison to a regular tuition-based course.
  • The amount of time required to earn credit for the course is less than what would be required in a traditional classroom, allowing students to progress toward graduation at a quicker pace.
  • Since the experiences used in this course have already occurred, the workload to complete the requirements for this course is less than a typical class, making it possible for the student to enroll in other courses at the same time. (Just keep in mind that the course still takes work--students who are enrolled in 15 “regular” credits and want to earn 15 PLA credits could still become overwhelmed)
  • The instructor(s) and assistants for the course are readily available to answer questions and help walk the student through each step of the course, making it a positive experience of reflection for the student.

Registration Process:

  1. Acquaint yourself with by the program by reviewing this website and reading through the FAQ section below and decide if you're a good fit for the PLA program.
  2. Submit and Add Course Request Form through your mySUU Portal with the following information:
    • Term: Semester you'd like to take the class
    • CRN: The registration CRN for the specific course you'd like to be enrolled in
    • Reason: Instructor/Advisor Permission
    • Explanation: Please specify how many credits you will be planning to earn and what experience you have that you believe qualifies you for this course
  3. Await an acceptance decision. Your form will be reviewed and you will either be admitted into the class or the form will be returned for corrections.


How many credits can I earn?

Students can earn between 1 and 15 credits total.

How many times can I take PLA?

You may participate in the course as many times as you would like to earn up to 15 credits total. However, a $279 charge will be applied for the first credit for each time you register for the course.

How is PLA graded?

PLA is a Pass/Fail course. Students must successfully complete at least 70% of the course to earn the Pass.

How do the PLA credits count toward graduation?

PLA credits replace any upper-division free elective credits students need towards their degree. PLA credits do not count towards a student’s specific major requirements.

Does PLA count toward SUU’s degree residency requirements?

Yes, PLA 3920 counts toward the 120 total credits needed for a degree, as well as toward the 30 upper-division graduation requirements. PLA 3920 also counts toward the minimum number of credits needed to be completed through SUU for transfer students.

I’ve registered for PLA 3920 for 1 credit but I am planning on earning more. How and when does my credit total change in my account?

After the course drop date and after your project and credit proposal has been approved by course instructor and program administration, the Registrar’s Office will be notified of the credit adjustment and apply the additional credits to your account. This will update your DegreeWorks and billing balance.

Do I have to complete a course overload form if my regular class credits and PLA credits total to more than 18 credits?

No. Due to PLA being both a “self-support” and “prior learning course,” only one credit will count towards your 18 credit total. If you choose to earn the 14 additional credits, that will be applied to your credit total after the semester drop date and does not require a course overload form to be filled out.

What experiences qualify for PLA?

Prior professional experiences that have led to the completion of a license or certification can qualify towards the professional portfolio track. Prior intentional learning experiences outside of an academic setting such as skills learned where a certificate or license was not awarded can be considered towards the experiential essay track.

Credit-bearing projects and certificates earned at or transferred to SUU cannot be considered for additional PLA credits.

Experiences that do NOT count towards PLA include, but are not limited to, service, sports, awards, internships, job shadowing, experiences that are in the process of or have not yet been completed, happenstantial learning experiences (learning something by chance without intention or research), etc.

What do I have to do for the PLA class?

There are three different ways to earn credit in the PLA Course:

  1. Professional Portfolio: Submit a professional portfolio that focuses on professional licenses or certifications that you’ve earned. Complete the course assignments to develop and complete your portfolio. Generally speaking, 40-45 hours of certification or license training 1 credit.
  2. Essay: Submit an essay written on one specific topic that exemplifies the prior knowledge you have gained through the intentional professional development of a skill that did not end in receiving a license or certificate. You can earn anywhere from 1 – 3 credits per essay depending on the length of the essay. (1,000 words = 1 credit; 2,000 words = 2 credits, etc….) Each essay consists of several parts that are divided into weekly sections to help you complete all the requirements of the essay. You can complete up to 5 - 3,000 word essays.
  3. Combination: The third option is a combination of both options 1 and 2. For example, a student might choose to earn 6 credits by submitting a 120 hour, 3-credit professional portfolio and complete one, 3,000 word, 3-credit essay.

How do they determine the credits my experiences are eligible for?

Instructors for the course evaluate each student’s experience by the hours invested into the experience, the level of expertise achieved, and any certifications earned. Each student brings a different experience and therefore has to be looked at individually to help identify the amount of credit can be granted.

What’s the pace of the course? How quickly or slowly can it be completed?

Students have 6 weeks to complete the course requirements. After their proposal has been approved, they can submit all that is required within the first week or they can complete each weekly assignment to finish their deliverable by the end of the course.

This course is not a typical course; the main work for this course has already been completed through prior experience. The purpose of the course is to reflect on the student’s accomplishments by relating them to SUU’s Essential Learning Outcomes and adding a research component to what they have learned. The course requirements to earn credit for the experience are designed to be completed within the 6 weeks.

Extensions (an incomplete) for the course are not given. Students are encouraged to plan ahead and only propose what they can complete in the time period given. If a student is unable to do so, they will be encouraged to complete what they can and then retake the course at another time.

How much does PLA cost?

The first credit costs $279 and each additional credit is $49 each. Here’s the breakdown by credit:

Credits Cost
1 $279
2 $328
3 $377
4 $426
5 $475
6 $524
7 $573
8 $622
9 $671
10 $720
11 $769
12 $818
13 $867
14 $916
15 $965

Can I use my financial aid to pay for PLA?

No. The PLA course is not eligible to receive financial aid, and your PLA credits will not count towards the total number of credits needed to be aid eligible for FAFSA or other scholarships.

Can I use PLA to maintain eligibility?

No. PLA credits do not count towards FAFSA, scholarship, NCAA, International Student status, or Veteran status.

If I’m already registered for 12 credits, why isn’t PLA covered by my tuition?

PLA is considered a “self-support” course and is not part of the regular undergraduate tuition rates, and is not covered by any tuition you may have already paid as part of your other courses. This allows PLA to be offered for significantly lower costs than other academic courses.

Contact Information

Whitney Piñeiro - Interdisciplinary Studies Specialist -