Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Introduction to Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)

Prior Learning Assessment

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a process for assessing learning gained outside a traditional academic environment. This could be learning acquired through military service, employer training programs, independent study, non-credit courses, open courseware, or volunteer or community service. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a means of evaluating what a student already knows at the college-level derived from these experiences for college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training.

Your Knowledge + Expertise Equals College Credit!

Complete this form to find out if you can earn college credit for what you've learned outside of the classroom, including any certifications you might have earned or workplace training you completed through your job.

Six Alternative Pathways for Prior Learning Assessment


Military Credit (ACE-Evaluated Military Training and College Credit for Heroes)

HCC is committed to ensuring our military service members and veterans receive credit for their college-level knowledge gained through their service to our country. We are proud to participate in Texas’ College Credit for Heroes. The American Council on Education (ACE) evaluates all military experiences for college credit recommendation. Results of the ACE evaluation are processed as transfer credit.


Credit By Exam

Credit by Exam (National Standardized Exams and Department Final Exams)

HCC encourages students to use for-credit examinations to demonstrate subject matter knowledge. These exams cover a wide-range of topics and disciplines. A complete listing of exams is included in the Resources Section of this Guide. Taking exams for credit is one of the most affordable ways to accelerate degree completion. It is recommended that students who are fluent in Spanish take CLEP exams to demonstrate their knowledge. A Spanish-speaking student could earn up to fourteen credits through CLEP which will save time and money while moving that student fourteen credits closer to degree completion.

The following exams may be taken for credit or transferred into HCC if the student has already taken an exam:

  • CLEP
  • AP (Advanced Placement)
  • IB (International Baccalaureate) Exam
  • SAT II
  • DSST and/or DANTES Exams
  • ALEKS Exams
  • Straighter line Exams
  • HCC Department Final Exam


Mirror Classes

Mirror Courses (CEU/WECM to Credit)

A Mirror Course is the articulation of a CEU or non-credit course into a for-credit course applicable toward a certificate or Associate’s degree. The continuing education courses must meet the same rigor, evaluation process, and faculty guidelines as the equivalent for-credit courses. The documentation must demonstrate that individual continuing education students have met the same competencies as the successful for-credit students prior to making the decision to award credit for a course taken as continuing education.



Certification/Training Credits (ACE/NCCRS-Evaluated Industry Certificates and Training Programs)

Many adult students attend college while in the workforce or after working for many years. They find themselves in a position to either earn a certificate or degree to continue employment or to retrain for another career altogether. In either case, the adult may have completed industry or corporate training programs or certifications that may count as college credit toward a degree or certificate at HCC. These completed trainings and/or certification programs can be evaluated by ACE (The American Council on Education) and may be equivalent to courses required in a selected degree or certificate program.


Work Experience

Work Experience

For students with significant professional experience, military experience or trade experience, portfolio assessment is a rewarding process that teaches you to document your learning from experience. Portfolio Assessment provides the opportunity to earn college credits and much more. A portfolio is built by matching a college course (such as any course from the HCC Schedule of Courses or Catalog) with the knowledge and skills gained by work or profession, through civic, community and volunteer work, or through independent self-directed study or travel.


Articulated Agreements

Articulated Agreements

HCC has articulated agreements with several agencies and/or institutions. An articulated agreement permits credits/CEU’s/certifications that are earned at one institution or agency to be transferred as a college credit towards a specific degree or certificate at HC. The specific recognized articulated agreements are

There are two types of articulation agreement in effect for receiving Prior Learning Assessment at HCC.

CEU to SCH Programs: An internal HCC instructional department agreement to accept certain CE courses as semester credit hour (SCH) courses.

Advanced Technical Credit/Tech Prep:

ATC – (formally Statewide Articulation): A state-level process that identifies commonly articulated secondary career and technical courses and set common standards for award of college credit for these courses statewide. State-approved professional development provides information to teachers on articulated course methodology and expectations on college Workforce Education Course Manual (WECM) courses. The statewide articulation process allows student who successfully complete these career requirements outlined for ATC, to receive articulated credit from any participating corresponding course(s)

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Currently we have three MOUs

  • Agreement between The City of Houston – Houston Fire Department (HFD) employees – CEU to SCH
  • Agreement between The City of Houston – Houston Police Department (HPD) employees – CEU to SCH
  • Agreement between Alief Independent School District (Alief ISD) – Alief Learning Center – Tech Prep


Prior Learning Assessment Guidelines and Criteria

Student Eligibility

To be eligible to earn PLA credit:

  1. Student must meet all Houston Community College admissions requirements. This includes having a term activated semester credit account.
  2. PLA credit is awarded only when it applies to an HCC programs of study.
  3. The student should not have previously taken or attempted the course (by title) that is the same as the PLA credit for which they are applying.
  4. PLA credit cannot be applied to any Cooperative Education/Internship Program or Capstone course.

NOTE: A minimum of 25% of the credits for the HCC certificate or degree must be completed at HCC (in fulfillment of the residency requirement). Please note that credit earned by Advanced Placement (AP) exams does not count toward the residency requirement.



Every student who applies for Prior Learning Assessment credit must work with an advisor to complete the appropriate Prior Learning Assessment requirements and submit the appropriate fee/s (due to the multiple sources of credit). Some pathways do not require a fee.


PLA Pathway


Military Credit

Fee is waived for military students

Credit by Exam - National Standardized Exams

No Fee

Credit by Exam – Department Final Exam

$25 per exam

Mirror Courses

No Fee

Certification/Training Credits

$25 per course

Work Experience/Portfolio

$25 per course

Articulated Agreements

No Fee


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Contact Us

José Cordero, Manager

Prior Learning Assessment