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Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  What is Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)?
A:  The College awards PLA for college-level learning that can be assessed and documented. PLA must be for a specific PCC course within your program of study.

Q:  Who should consider PLA?
A:  You should consider PLA if you have extensive work, volunteer or military experience, current certifications, licenses or industry credentials or have completed professional training programs.

Q:  When should I consider PLA?
A:  You should consider PLA early in your educational planning to prevent taking classes on material you already know. 

Q:  What are the eligibility requirements for PLA?
A:  PLA may be awarded after you meet the following requirements:

  • Apply for admission to PCC
  • Declare a program of study (certificate or degree)
  • Submit a completed electronic form with the assistance of an academic advisor
  • Receive evaluation that knowledge/skills are college-level
  • Pay required fees. Fees are charged for challenge exams, non-credit to credit, and portfolio assessment.  

Q:  Are there courses/program areas where PLA cannot be evaluated?
A:  Yes. Consult with an academic advisor, who can help you decide if PLA is right for you and which courses you may challenge.

Q:  What is a portfolio?
A:  A portfolio is a collection of materials that documents what you have learned, where you learned it, and how that learning equates to college-level learning. Parallels are made between stated course outcomes, as shown on course syllabi, and your learning through work, volunteering, and other experiences by way of written narratives. You may submit more than one portfolio for evaluation.

Q:  Are there any prerequisites for having my portfolio evaluated?
A:  Yes. Portfolio development requires a great deal of writing, so college-level writing skills are a necessity. You must enroll in the mandatory, noncredit, online portfolio development course that is designed to help you identify, describe and document the skills and knowledge you’ve gained through your prior learning experiences. The enrollment fee for the noncredit portfolio development course is $49.

Q:  Who evaluates the portfolios?
A:  Your PLA portfolio will be evaluated by a PCC faculty member who is a subject matter expert. 

Q:  How long does it take to earn PLA?
A:  The process to earn PLA varies depending on the type. A portfolio assessment, depending on your work, may take 4-8 weeks, compared to a challenge exam, which could take 1-2 weeks. 

Q:  If I cannot demonstrate college-level knowledge/skills, will I receive a refund?
A:  PLA is not guaranteed. Fees paid for assessment are non-refundable. 

Q:  Can PLA be used to satisfy a previously failed course?
A:  No. 

Q:  If I do not receive PLA, can I appeal?
A:  Yes. You may request an appeal if you have additional information/evidence that demonstrates the assessment recommendation was not made objectively. All appeals will go to the appropriate academic dean or designee for final review and recommendation. 

Q:  Can PLA be used to satisfy College in-state residency requirements?
A:  No. 

Q:  Does PLA transfer to other institutions?
A:  PLA may transfer. Students who plan to transfer to another college or university should check with that school to be sure the PLA will transfer. Credits awarded for national standardized exams will be designated as TP (transfer pass) on the transcript. All other PLA methods will be designated as "PLA (prior learning assessment)" on the transcript.

Q:  Can I use financial aid to pay for PLA credit?
A:  No. PLA hours do not count as hours of enrollment for the purposes of financial aid.

Q:  Does PLA count toward my grade point average (GPA)?
A:  No.

 “Having been out of the traditional classroom for more than 15 years while I entered into Fire Service and was promoted to Captain, I knew that going back to school was necessary but very likely to be a challenge. When I went back to college, the PLA program enabled me to turn a couple of certifications into college credits and earn two different Associate's Degrees at Pima.”

- Derek De La Torre, PCC graduate

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