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New Research from CAEL and WICHE on Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes

For more than 50 years, colleges and universities have used a range of different methods to award college credit for learning that takes place outside of the classroomparticularly learning from work, life, and military experiences. These methodsoften called prior learning assessment (PLA) or credit for prior learning (CPL)value the learning that many adult students bring with them to college. CAEL recently conducted research in partnership with WICHE and 72 postsecondary institutions to explore the benefits of PLA for adult learners. Data on more than 230,000 adult students showed that those with PLA credits were far more likely to complete a postsecondary credential. Credential completion was 22 percentage points higher for adult students with PLA than than adult students without PLA.




Students with PLA also saved time and money in earning their degrees. And, it wasn’t just students who benefitted: in addition to the graduation benefits, institutions also benefited since adults with PLA credit took 17 or more course credits from the institution, compared to adults without PLA credit. PLA offers significant benefits to students and institutions, yet only about one in ten students in our sample had any PLA credit. PLA cannot benefit the students who need it most if they aren't using it.

Check out a one-page summary, a longer Executive Summary, or the full report and appendices. Also below, check out two research briefs that CAEL co-authored as part of a series of 12 research briefs in WICHE’s landscape study of PLA.


Explore the Findings In Depth

Get the recording from our on October 22, 2020 webinar where we explored these findings live. We explored how to implement PLA credit in ways that support students and institutions alike. 




Would you like to explore your options for implementing PLA at your institution? Contact CAEL to schedule a discussion.


Join us at the CAEL conference for a session discussing The PLA Boost with the researchers and another session with some of the other research partners in WICHE's PLA landscape initiative







The PLA Boost
The PLA Boost: The Full Report
Executive Summary
Executive Summary
PLA Boost Appendix
The PLA Boost: Fact Sheet
Recognition of Prior Learning in the 21st Century
Recognizing Prior Learning in the COVID-19 Era
Recognizing Prior Learning in the COVID-19 Era
Press Release