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SUNY expands Prior Learning Assessment for work, life experience learning


New guidelines could make it easier for adult learners to earn a degree at SUNY schools.

Prior Learning Assessments or PLAs are used to determine whether a student’s outside skills and experiences equate to college-level credits. SUNY recently expanded on the assessments to increase the capacity for faculties to evaluate and reward credits based on industry certifications, military and veteran experiences and more. SUNY Oswego Dean for Extended Learning, Jill Pippin, said the expansion adds to SUNY’s commitment for success.

“What they’ve done is validated that quality Prior Learning Assessment is not only possible but strongly encouraged and consistent with SUNY’s commitment to access and student success,” Pippin said.

PLAs can include placement exams, industry tests and tests designed for a specific institution or class. Each test is designed to assess if the level of knowledge from outside work or life experiences equals the curriculum of a college credit course. Pippin said these tests validate individual learners’ experiences.

“It really puts an emphasis on the fact that learning is not only in a college classroom, does not occur only in a college classroom, it can occur in multiple ways,” Pippin said.

By already qualifying for some college credits, non-traditional students can earn their degrees faster, saving time and money. Pippin said those who receive PLA credit often stay in their degree program longer.

“Those who earn credit from PLA are 17% more likely to actually graduate and persist,” Pippin said. “That’s huge.”

Pippin said the assessments go beyond just giving credits, they give the learners confidence to continue and succeed in their degree path.

“Prior Learning Assessment is not about just credit for work you’ve done or life experience, it’s not just that,” Pippin said. “It is that you can demonstrate that you have a college-level learning outcome.”

For skeptics, PLAs may not equal the caliber and rigor of a college course, but Pippin said integrity across institutions is what allows them to work.

“Serious academics sometimes question its real equivalency to college-level work,” Pippin said. “So the integrity of this process is key to any institution that’s going to be offering credit for prior learning.”

PLA offerings will differ by SUNY institutions based on class and degree program offerings.

Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.