Prior Learning Assessment

Op3.04-14 Prior Learning Assessment

Note: This version of the policy is effective August 21, 2017. Contact the office of the registrar for the version in effect through August 20, 2017.

The University recognizes that students may attain college-level competencies through a variety of extra institutional means, including rigorous high school curricula, professional or military experience, corporate training, and self-directed learning. The systematic evaluation of such competencies against established course learning outcomes is known as prior learning assessment (PLA).

Academic departments determine the specific procedures they utilize to grant course credit, course waivers, or prerequisite overrides and determine the scores or outcomes required for such consideration. Credit for prior learning may be granted on the basis of institutional assessment procedures developed by departments or through external examinations, such as Advanced Placement, CLEP, and IB tests. In the case of internally developed and administered PLA protocols, departments may collect the assessment administration fee stipulated in the current fee schedule.

Departments offering PLA options for their courses must make the following information available on their websites: a list of the courses (course code and number) for which PLA options exist; a brief description of the PLA mechanism used; basic details about the administration of the assessment (frequency, dates, times, etc.); whether an assessment fee is charged; whether students may repeat or retake an assessment; the specific scores or outcomes required to grant course credit, course waivers, or prerequisite overrides; and details about whom to contact for more information. The Office of the Provost will maintain a centralized PLA website that lists all courses with PLA options and provides links to the relevant departmental websites.

All PLA hours, whether granted through institutional assessments or external examinations, are treated as transfer credit and thus cannot be applied toward residence requirements for graduation, renewal of scholarships, or other requirements based on credit earned through the University.

No more than 30 hours of PLA may be applied to the credit hour requirement for a bachelor’s degree. For graduate degrees, no more than 49% of the required semester hours may be fulfilled by combining senior permission (up to 12 hours), courses taken prior to admission to the program (up to 30%), transfer (up to 30%), and assessment of prior learning.

PLA hours are transcripted with CR or TE grades, indicating whether they were granted on the basis of institutional assessments or external examinations, respectively. When prior learning assessment takes place prior to initial enrollment, credit will be assigned to the first term in which the student enrolls. Otherwise, credit for prior learning will be assigned to the term in which prior learning is assessed.

 Students who wish to receive credit for PLA granted by other institutions must consult with the head of the MSU department that offers courses in that area or a designee of the Office of the Provost. Such requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Undergraduate students who wish to be considered for such approval should contact the Office of Admissions regarding the procedure. Graduate students should contact the Director of the graduate program in which the credit could apply.

External examinations

Some departments grant course credit, course waivers, and prerequisite overrides on the basis of scores on external examinations, which include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following: 

Students must have original (official) score reports for these examinations sent to the Office of Admissions by the testing agency to be considered for credit. For individual AP, CLEP, and IB examinations, academic departments are responsible for determining whether PLA is granted and for also determining minimum score requirements, number of credit hours, and course equivalencies. 

In the case of DSST exams, the determination to grant PLA is based on American Council on Education (ACE) guidelines. Students who meet the minimum score recommended by ACE on examinations that cover subjects taught by MSU will be awarded PLA based on ACE guidelines. Academic department heads are responsible for determining whether such PLA hours will be considered equivalent to a specific MSU course or considered elective credit.

Students seeking credit for prior learning on the basis of military education and experience should consult the Credit for Military Education and Experience Policy.

To request graduate credit on the basis of external examinations, students should contact the director of the graduate program in which the credit could apply.