PLA Guidelines

  • When PLA credit is awarded there is no letter grade (A-D) posted on the transcript. The transcript will indicate a “P” for the grade for the course indicating that the credit requirement for the course has been met. The “P” grade will have no effect on the student’s GPA.
  • Equivalent credit awarded through PLA may not be transferable to another institution. Students are advised to check with the intended transfer institution to determine transferability of PLA credit.

There are testing and administrative fees associated with the following credit recommendation services. The student should refer to the Southwest Testing webpage for more information regarding the following assessment exams:

  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
  • Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) Subject Standardized Tests (DSST)
  • Microsoft Office Specialists (MOS)

A $25 fee is charged for Course Challenge Exams administered by department faculty members. Fee payment for the exam is made at the Cashier’s Office.

Southwest has a Grade Appeal process for students who wish to dispute the grade received in a course. Students who want to dispute the results of their assessment of prior learning will follow the same procedure outlined in the Grade Appeal Process.

Southwest students can apply at the online PLA Application.

Students interested in pursuing PLA opportunities for college credit should complete the online PLA application. Prior to completing the application, students should take the following steps:

  • Review the Academic Pathway for the chosen program or major.
  • Review the syllabi of the course(s) for which PLA is desired to understand the student outcomes of the course.
  • Identify the appropriate assessment method that will be used to document prior learning.

The PLA Coordinator will review the application for student eligibility and credit suitability and contact the appropriate academic department to inform them of the student’s request for an assessment of their prior learning. The PLA Coordinator will then follow up with the student to advise whether the student is a candidate for PLA and with whom contact should be made in the academic department(s) for guidance on what prior learning evidence should be submitted for review.


Assessment Methods

Standardized exams such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST) and Microsoft Office Specialists (MOS) are administered by the Southwest Testing Center. Visit the testing webpage for more information about the assessment exams.

Faculty members administer departmental Challenge Exams. Not all academic departments offer Course Challenge Exams. If a Challenge Exam is an option for PLA, the student must pay a $25 Challenge Exam fee at the Cashier’s Office before taking the exam. A minimum passing score for receiving course credit is determined by faculty in the department.

Non-college instruction can take many forms. Military training, workplace training, police and fire training, apprenticeships, nationally recognized certifications, professional licensure, and continuing education training may be evaluated for possible college credit if sufficient evidence of rigor and relevance to a Southwest credit course can be documented.

Certifications recognized by Southwest for college credit

A portfolio is a written document prepared by the student to demonstrate and validate credit for learning outside of the classroom and must be relevant to the student’s degree program.

Department faculty will use rubrics to evaluate the student portfolio, which will include documentation such as certificates of training, work samples, awards and honors, job descriptions, performance evaluations, samples of artwork, evidence of self-directed learning and resumes.

Performance assessment is the application of knowledge, skills and work habits through the performance of tasks.

PLA credit for some credit courses may require the student to demonstrate their mastery of course outcomes through a practical demonstration of their knowledge and skills.

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