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About the Program

Prior Learning Assessment is a process through which students may earn credit for college-level learning previously acquired through employment, professional experience, or other training and study.

Credit is given only for prior learning that corresponds to a particular course offered at MMC. To apply for credit students prepare a portfolio to be assessed by the faculty, which provides evidence of achievement of the learning goals of the course(s) for which the student is seeking credit.


To be eligible for credit through prior learning, students must be matriculated at Marymount Manhattan College and in good academic standing, have completed 24 college credits, with at least 12 credits earned at MMC. Also, students must have completed the requirements of MMC’s Core Curriculum (WRIT 101, WRIT 102, and MATH 113 or equivalent). The following restrictions obtain:

  • No more than 30 credits approved through PLA may be applied to the completion of the degree;
  • PLA credits may not be used as part of the 30-credit college residency requirement or the 12 credit residency requirement in the major;
  • CLEP credits and other proficiency test scores combined with PLA credits awarded may not total more than 30 credits;
  • Students may not seek PLA credit for courses for which testing options already exist (CLEP, Language Equivalency Exams, etc.; see the Advisement Office for further information);
  • Students may not seek PLA credit for MMC courses already attempted or completed;
  • PLA credits do not receive grades and are not applied to the minimum number of credits required to earn honors at graduation;
  • Because not all colleges recognize prior learning credits, students who plan to attend graduate school after completing their MMC degree are advised to check with respective schools.


  1. The student meets with Cindy Mercer, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs for a general assessment of the viability of pursuing credits for prior learning within the context of his/her degree requirements.   If deemed viable.
  2. The student meets with his/her Academic Advisor to determine which course(s) could be completed through Prior Learning Assessment.  Student and advisor complete the top half of the “Prior Learning Assessment Application Form” and the student brings it to Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, Cindy Mercer. 
  3. The student meets with Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Cindy Mercer to review the application; if approved, Dean Mercer determines which division might best evaluate a student’s work.
  4. The student meets with the appropriate division chair, who will determine who among the full-time faculty can evaluate the student’s work and provides the student with copies of the relevant course syllabi.  Once an evaluator has been identified, the sponsoring faculty member and the division chair sign the bottom of the “Prior Learning Assessment Application Form,” then the student returns it to Dean Mercer.  Dean Mercer signs and files the form with the Registrar, which triggers the student to be registered for PLA 001, a placeholder that lasts one semester and does not involve billing.  
  5. The student creates a portfolio and submits it to the faculty supervisor, normally within one year of registering for PLA 001.01.  A portfolio evaluation normally takes three to four weeks. After reviewing the portfolio, the faculty supervisor completes the “PLA Credit Submission Form” and indicates whether full, partial, or no credit will be awarded.  The faculty supervisor returns this form to Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Cindy Mercer with the portfolio. Upon submission of the form, the student is billed $50 per credit assessed (not on how many credits are awarded).
  6. The Office of Academic Affairs forwards a copy of the “PLA Credit Submission Form” with signed approvals to the Registrar.  The Registrar will enroll the student into PLA 298 XX.   PLA 298 XX is a course created specifically for PLA students and does not appear on the student’s transcript.  PLA 298 XX has 0 academic and billable credits.  PLA 298 XX will be assigned a miscellaneous fee, depending on the number of credits on the “PLA Credit Submission Form”.    For example, if the student is awarded 3 credits, the fee will be 3 x $50 = $150.   Once PLA 298 XX is added to the student’s record, a bill will be activated.  Course credit earned through PLA will appear on the student’s transcript as “Life Experience.”  Similar to transfer credits, credits earned through PLA are not institutional credits and will thus appear on the Colleague system in the “Other” section where CLEP and AP credits are recorded.
  7. A student may appeal the outcome of a PLA evaluation through the same procedure by which a student would appeal a grade for a course at MMC.  (See Grade Appeal Policy.)

Preparing the Portfolio

In the process of writing the portfolio, the student is expected to make the case that his/her college-level or professional experience is equivalent to the learning goals of a particular course at MMC as articulated by the pertinent syllabi and course descriptions.  Each portfolio will include the following components:

  • Student Contact Information
  • Table of Contents
  • Current Résumé
  • Statement of Educational & Career Goals
  • Unofficial MMC transcript and transcripts for other institutions attended
  • Course Description and Syllabus for each course for which the student is seeking credit
  • Learning Statement:  this is the narrative section of the portfolio in which the student describes his/her experience, the learning acquired, and reflects on how the learning is equivalent to the learning goals of each course for which credit is sought.
  • Supporting Documentation: this is evidence that the learning goals of the course(s) for which credit is sought have been met.  Documentation typically takes two forms, direct and indirect evidence.  Direct evidence includes sample products or projects (for example, writing samples, marketing or public relations plans, technical drawings, photographs, a performance submitted on DVD, licenses granted by state or national agencies).  Indirect evidence could include letters of support, personnel evaluations, job descriptions, verification of completion of a workshop/course, memberships in unions or professional trade organizations.

Conditional Factors

  • A maximum of 30 credits may be awarded through the PLA process and applied to the MMC degree.
  • When students plan how many courses for which they will seek PLA credit, they should keep in mind the one-year time limit for completion of the portfolio and any other academic and/or employment commitments they may already have.
  • Students may participate in more than one PLA cycle during their academic matriculation at MMC.  For example, a student could apply for 6 or 9 PLA credits at the lower level early in his/her career, and then later apply for 6 or 9 further credits based on progressive professional experience and learning.  In this case the student would begin the whole process anew.
  • A student may not reapply for credits previously denied through the PLA process at MMC.

Review Standards/Criteria

The standard of student achievement for awarding PLA credit is the same as that applied to a student taking the MMC course in the classroom.  The faculty evaluator may interview a student or request additional materials before writing the evaluation.  The criteria for evaluating a portfolio include the following:

  • Credible Authenticity:  the products submitted for evaluation (articles, documents, recording, etc.) must be the student’s own work.  If the student has a secondary involvement or responsibility for the activity or outcome, this must be made clear and the student’s actual role clearly attributed and assessed.
  • Degree of the Breadth and Depth:  credit is awarded for the degree and quality of learning acquired, not for the amount of experience accrued.  The portfolio should address growth and progress in level of difficulty and expertise as well as the student’s ability to connect his/her learning to the concepts and content of the academic discipline(s) in which the student seeks credit.  The learning presented for assessment must be college-level work:  that is, it must have the scope, complexity, and content commensurate with academic course work at the level for which credit is sought.
  • Quality of Learning:  this includes the quality of the written narrative; the degree to which the student is able to articulate the learning goals of the equivalent course and relate them to Prior Learning; the quality of the products submitted for documentation as assessed by their complexity, difficulty, and level of professionalism; the depth of knowledge acquired through Prior Learning as evidenced by specific examples where the student has engaged critical thinking and/or creative processes in a significant manner.