Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Washington State is committed to fostering an educated and skilled workforce, which is essential for economic prosperity and meaningful work for its citizens. Increased enrollment in – and successful completion of – postsecondary learning programs is critical to achieving that goal. Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA, can help more students complete their training and degree programs sooner by evaluating an individual’s existing knowledge and competencies for college credit.

 Cascadia awards credit for prior learning when a student demonstrates he or she has achieved the student learning outcomes, knowledge, and skills found in the Course Outcomes Guide for that specific course. If the college accepts the prior learning experience, credit will be given for that course. All credit for prior learning must be recorded on the “Credit for Prior Learning Documentation Form.”  A separate form must be completed for each course.  A maximum of 15 credits of this work may be applied to degree or certificate requirements.  These credits will not fulfill Cascadia’s 25-credit residence requirement that students must complete at Cascadia in order to graduate. 

Credit for Prior Learning may be earned in three different ways. Find the one that works for you:


National Standardized Tests


Cascadia accepts the results of some national standardized tests for placement or credit, such as specific exams among those offered by Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB).



    1. The student mails or submits Official Scores to the Kodiak Corner.
    2. Once scores have been submitted, the student completes a Transcript Evaluation Request Form and turn it in to the Kodiak Corner.


Documented Experience (Portfolio)


Documented prior experience that demonstrates college-level learning equivalent to coursework at Cascadia may earn academic credits or advanced placement in professional/technical programs. 


Process:  The Prior Learning Coordinator reviews the student’s request for credit and demonstration of learning and refers to the appropriate instructor.  The student provides to the instructor those materials (e.g., portfolio, written essay, sample work, etc.) to be used to assess the student’s prior learning experience. The instructor discusses the student’s request to determine whether the prior learning experience meets the learning outcomes of any course offered at Cascadia, and how many credits or what kind of placement the learning likely qualifies the student for.  If the learning seems to be a good match, the instructor completes the left half of the “Documented Experience” box on the “Credit for Prior Learning Documentation Form.”   The student then takes the form to the Cashier’s Office and pays the Assessment, Placement Fee, and returns the form to the instructor.    After the student has paid the fee, the instructor completes a thorough review of the submitted materials. After the review and assessment to determine final credits or placement to be awarded, the instructor signs the form and submits it to the Dean for Student Learning.  The Dean for Student Learning sends the original to Enrollment Services for transcripting and maintains a copy in his or her files.


NOTE: Cascadia offers a course entitled COLLEGE 120 – Documentation of Prior Learning. In this class, students learn the analytical skills needed to organize and synthesize outside learning and will be able to identify significant experiences, demonstrate this learning, and compose self-reflective narratives documenting learning, knowledge and skills. This course will assist the student to develop a portfolio that demonstrates and documents the knowledge and skills the student has acquired through non-traditional means.  It is strongly recommended that students wishing to submit portfolios for assessment take this class before beginning that process.


Course Challenge


Credit by Course challenge is possible for a limited number of classes for which faculty have developed an examination or other means of demonstration of college-level learning outcomes. This process is appropriate for those students whose work or life experience has provided them with learning that closely matches a particular course at Cascadia.


Process:   The Dean for Student Learning/Prior Learning Coordinator (PLC) will maintain a list of all courses which may be challenged and the instructor(s) who can administer and assess the demonstration of learning. If a student wishes to challenge a course not listed, the PLC will contact to faculty to see if a challenge will be allowed.


If a student wishes to take challenge a course, he or she will need to pay a non-refundable Assessment, Placement Fee and be referred to the appropriate instructor.  The instructor assigned to the specific course completes the shaded side of the “Course Challenge” box on the “Credit for Prior Learning Documentation Form.”  The instructor will not sign the form until after the assessment.  The student goes to the Cashier’s Office and pays the Assessment, Placement Fee. 


The student gives the form to the instructor, receives instructions for the demonstration of learning, and completes all activities, which the instructor assesses. 


After the exam, the instructor completes the un-shaded side of the “Course Challenge” box by indicating the results of the assessment and signing the form. If the student qualifies for credit, the instructor signs the form and submits it to the Dean for Student Learning/Prior Learning Coordinator.  The Dean for Student Learning/Prior Learning Coordinator sends the original to Enrollment Services for transcription and maintains a copy in his or her files.


PLA Coordinator



Erik Tingelstad

Dean for Student Learning

Office: CC1-144

Phone: 425-352-8277



PLA Fees

Fees associated with Prior Learning: 


Assessment, Placement              



Course Challenge                                            

$154.56 per assessment  (for each 3-5 credit class)


Portfolio Assessment of Prior Learning 

$257.60 per assessment (for each 3-10 credit portfolio)