Prior Learning Assessment

Participating in the Loyola University Prior Learning Assessment program can save you 1-1.5 years and up to $22,680 in tuition toward your degree, and  provide you with a personal sense of accomplishment for past achievements.

Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio

The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Portfolio provides you an opportunity to earn college credit for learning achieved in settings other than a college classroom. Examples of settings where college-level learning often happens are the workplace, structured non-collegiate training, volunteer work, licensing programs, second language acquisition and recreational activities.

The portfolio assessment process:

  • Allows degree-seeking students to earn credit for up to 36 total credits of which 12 credits (four courses) may be in the major.
  • Includes  a 1 credit course offered by SCPS in which you learn to develop the learning essays (equivalent to a course) and the broader portfolio.
  • Recognizes learning derived from work, volunteer, community, and travel experiences. All adults have multiple self-directed learning experiences that arise from interests, hobbies, and causes. Most of us have participated in non-credit training programs. These are all fertile ground for PLA.
  • Uses a submission system of student-built learning essays evaluated by university faculty. 


Portfolio credit is awarded not for experience per se, but for documented college-level learning. SCPS adheres to the Higher Learning Commission guidelines, as well as to the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) quality standards, principles, and procedures for assessing learning.


Up to 36 credits are possible from the prior learning portfolio process, within the maximum of 36 credits possible from non-traditional sources. Examples:

  • Jim has 10 credits from military education may receive a portfolio award of up to 26 credits.
  • Sara has 6 CLEP credits for use in Core and 12 other ACE-recommended credits. She may receive a portfolio award of up to 18 credits.

Portfolio credits may be used to satisfy requirements within the SCPS major and/or concentration (not more than a total of 4 courses combined between the major and concentration, not more than 2 courses in the concentration). They may not be applied toward the Mission courses or School requirements. Portfolio credits may be accepted by SCPS in meeting general elective credits needed for graduation.

What’s in the portfolio?

The portfolio includes an introduction, three letters of reference, and a series of learning essays coupled with evidence of learning. Each learning essay within the portfolio is equated to either a course found in the LUC catalog, another college or university catalog, or to a special topics course (these may vary in credit award). Learning essays provide details of what the student knows (the claim), some evidence of how the subject has been learned (the process), and evidence of the learning (exhibits).  Most commonly, portfolio credits enable students to meet general elective requirements. The PLA Director coordinates all aspects of the portfolio process.


Students interested in portfolio assessment should first review their degree plan and discuss possible portfolio opportunities with their academic advisor. Requests for credit through assessment of prior learning must differ substantially in title, content and documentation from course credit achieved or attempted.

If the advisor and student together determine that portfolio is a viable option, the next step is to register for the free PLA information session, offered each semester. If the student determines that the PLA portfolio might be a useful process, the student must then register for CPST 205 Prior Learning Assessment Portfolio, a 1-credit-hour course providing the knowledge and tools needed to prepare a successful portfolio. This course also qualifies the student to receive portfolio advising.

Credit for Certificated Learning

Some certificates and licenses have already been evaluated for potential credit by Loyola University Chicago faculty, and the procedure for requesting credit for these is somewhat different than for ordinary portfolio submission. Credit courses successfully completed from a school which is not regionally accredited will be considered under the portfolio form of prior learning assessment through the use of an annotated transcript, incorporating syllabi and evidence of learning. Details are available from the PLA Director. These credits may not be used to satisfy University residency requirements.


National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)

SCPS will accept all LOMA courses recommended for credit toward general elective credit within the PLA portfolio, subject to the total limit of 36 credits for non-traditional sources. These courses are recommended for credit by the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS), a function of the New York State Board of Regents.

Portfolio Advising and Submission

Students who make the portfolio a top priority often finish the project within one semester, even if the portfolio is a large one. No portfolio should ever take longer than a year. All portfolio submissions must be submitted and reviewed by the end of the semester previous to graduation.

Learn more about the portfolio assessment process.

Contact Loyola's continuing education program at or 312.915.6501 to learn more about applying prior learning and transfer credit toward your college degree.