Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and Competency-Based Education (CBE)


Collaborative research project with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and the Moran Technology Group (Moran) to learn about the policies and practices governing PLA/CBE at the national and state-level and inform program development and advocacy.


The RP Group collaborated with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the Moran Technology Group to conduct research on prior learning assessment (PLA) and competency-based education (CBE), on behalf of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce (LA Chamber). This study examined policies and practices currently governing PLA and CBE at the national and state levels in order to inform program development efforts and potential advocacy for these approaches. The research also supported Los Angeles Trade-Technical College’s efforts to implement its “Pathways to Academic, Career, and Transfer Success” framework in collaboration with the LA Chamber. The partners aim to utilize the information gleaned from the research to advocate for changes in policies and practices at the state and local levels that are necessary to strengthen PLA and CBE programs across California community colleges.


Two primary findings emerged from this research related to PLA/CBE in California. Currently, the CCC landscape for PLA delivery reflects that of the nation—decentralized and varied across our institutions. CCCs do not have uniform practices and policies for awarding credit for prior learning with the exception of student fees for exams associated with credit-by-exam (currently mandated to be equal to the per unit enrollment fee). Credit-by-exam appears to be the primary mechanism supported by the system to recognize prior learning. Additionally, most community colleges have policies that recognize military coursework. The CCCs have been slow to embrace CBE as a method of awarding credit. However, two very new initiatives, the Los Angeles Healthcare Competency to Career Consortium and the Bachelor’s Degree Pilot program in select California community colleges could pave the way for further innovations in this area.

Review this policy brief for recommendations on changes to make at the state and local levels designed to foster PLA.

Read the final report for a full review of research findings, including information on national and state efforts to implement PLA and CBE and implications for broader adoption.

For more information…

Contact Ireri Valenzuela, Project Director,