Prior Learning Assessment

Gain Credit for Your Prior Learning

Corban University recognizes that learning takes place in various settings. You may have earned credits from traditional higher education institutions that you can transfer to Corban to apply toward your degree (see Corban’s Transfer Equivalency System).

But you may also qualify for credit for college-level learning that occurred outside of traditional college and university settings.

See below for six key questions and answers that explain how Corban University assesses and grants college credit for this type of nontraditional prior learning.

What is Prior Learning Assessment?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a term used to describe the process of evaluating and granting credit for learning that occurred in nontraditional settings. In order to receive college credit, the prior learning must be college-level (such as calculus or turfgrass disease management), as opposed to the level of learning acquired in middle school or high school (such as introductory geometry or basic gardening skills).

PLA bridges the gap between (a) what you have learned through your life experiences and (b) the documentation of that learning on your college transcript. The PLA process makes your prior learning official!

How do people acquire their prior learning?

We learn in a wide variety of contexts other than traditional college courses, including:

  • Classroom-like experiences (whether face-to-face or online) for which you were never granted college credit, such as corporate training on regulations in the banking industry or paramedic training.
  • Work experiences, such as project management or addictions counseling.
  • Family experiences, such as parenting or caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s.
  • Church experiences, such as leading a middle school ministry or teaching the Bible.
  • Knowledge of one or more foreign languages, such as Spanish, French, or German.

Other than the classroom-like experiences listed above, it often takes people eight years or more to acquire the college-level learning in a given area. For example, a mother who has raised her three children into their adolescence has probably achieved college-level learning in the area of parenting, while a first-time mother of a newborn has not.

How do schools assess prior learning?

Standardized Exams

Life Learning Paper (LLP)

This is a reflection paper where you document what you learned regarding a specific topic. For example, a twelve- to eighteen-page paper on intercultural communication may earn a student three college credits, if Corban approves the paper. Because this assessment process is writing-intensive, students must have earned at least 30 credits in a traditional college or university setting with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher in order to be eligible to write a life learning paper.

Business and Professional Training (BPT)

Here students document their formalized classroom or classroom-like training for which they never received college credit. For example, a student who received 90 hours of training in graphic design would need to (a) identify the organization from which he or she received the training, (b) provide documentation from the organization of the training (such as a signed certificate or signed memo from the trainer that outlines the training modules), and (c) reflect briefly on the learning experience.

What are the advantages of Prior Learning Assessment?

There are two main advantages to earning credit through PLA, and they are significant!

First, earning credit through PLA saves you time. For example, achieving a passing score on the Spanish language exam through CLEP (see above) will earn you up to 12 college credits, an amount of credit that often takes adult students four to six months to earn at a university.

Second, earning credit through PLA saves you money. Taking a standardized exam through CLEP or DSST costs approximately $100, and Life Learning Papers and Business and Professional Training submissions are about half the cost of standard tuition.

What is the assessment process at Corban?

1. Whether you are a prospective or a current student, watch the video at the top of this page to determine if you may qualify for PLA credit (either through a standardized exam, a Life Learning Paper, or a Business and Professional Training submission). Also, review these websites to determine if you are interested in taking one or more exams:

2. If you think you qualify for PLA and you are a prospective student, talk to your admissions counselor in more detail about the exams you want to take, the Life Learning Papers you want to write, and/or the Business and Professional Training submissions you want to complete.

3. After you have been admitted to Corban, complete this online inquiry form to begin the PLA process. There is no cost to submit this form. It simply initiates a dialogue between you and Corban’s PLA Coordinator, who will contact you to explain Corban’s assessment process further.

4. If the coordinator believes you are a good candidate for PLA, they will:

  • Approve you to register for one or more standardized exams. This approval ensures that you do not take a standardized test that will not apply to your program. For example, it is unnecessary to take an exam on Principles of Marketing if you have already satisfied that requirement in your program or if you have no more space for elective credit in your degree program. Before you take the exam(s), you will indicate that you want the results sent to:

University Registrar
Corban University
5000 Deer Park Dr. SE
Salem, OR 97317

  • Register you to begin the process of completing a Life Learning Paper or a Business and Professional Training submission. The coordinator will then assign you a faculty advisor who will coach you through the process of completing your submission.

5. If Corban awards credit for your prior learning, that credit will be applied to your general education requirements, your major, or your electives.

How much does PLA cost?

Exams through CLEP and DSST Approximately $100
+ the testing center’s administration fees
Life Learning Paper (LLP) or Business and Professional Training (BPT) submissions 1 credit = $200
2 credits = $400
3 credits = $600
4 or more credits = $800


  • Credit will not be given for duplication of learning (i.e., courses that cover the same material).
  • Students may earn up to 75% of their degree (90 credits) through a combination of transfer credit from other colleges/universities and prior learning assessment. (A maximum of 30 credits may be earned through Prior Learning Assessment).
  • In order to graduate with a degree from Corban University, students must complete at least 25% of their degree (30 credits) through Corban University.