Hays Student Center
Student Success Center

Prior Learning Assessment

Did you know that you may be able to earn college credit for your non-college or experience-based learning?

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is awarded for college-level learning:  knowledge, skills and competencies. PLA includes learning acquired from work and life experiences such as:

  • Correspondence and extension courses
  • Individual study and reading
  • Civic, community and volunteer work
  • Participation in formal courses and in-service training sponsored by associations, business, government and industry.

Standards for awarding PLA credit:

  • PLA credit may be awarded if the following standards have been met:
    • You have been admitted to Northeastern
    • You have declared a degree or certificate (changing your declared degree or certificate will result in the reassessment of the applicability of PLA credit)
    • Your prior learning is equivalent to college level
  • PLA credit may only be awarded for courses and credits required in your declared degree or certificate.
  • PLA credit may satisfy course prerequisite requirements
  • PLA credit cannot be used to satisfy the Northeastern or degree / certificate residency requirements*
  • All work evaluated for PLA credit must meet or exceed ‘C’ level work
  • PLA credit cannot duplicate any previously-awarded credit
  • PLA credit is specifically noted on the transcript as such and is considered transfer coursework (and not institutional coursework):
    • PLA credit is not calculated into your grade point average (GPA)
    • PLA credit noted on your transcript will have a grade of ‘PLA’
    • If the PLA credit assessment determines that the prior learning does not warrant the awarding of credit, or if the standardized / institutional exam is not passed, the PLA credit does not appear on your transcript
  • PLA credits are not included as part of your semester enrollment for the purposes of financial aid, veteran benefits or any other purpose predicated on total hours of enrollment for a given semester

You may earn college credit through certain standardized testing.  Upon receiving a satisfactory score, you may earn college credit. 

These tests including the following:

  • CLEP Exams:

CLEP (The College-Level Examination Program) gives students of any age the chance to demonstrate college-level achievement through a program of exams in undergraduate college courses.  Additional essay no longer required.

  • DSST Exams:

DSST exams are available in a variety of subjects.  Previously just available to those in the military, since 2006 DSST exams are available to adult learners, home-schooled students and military veterans as a way to earn college credits.

  • UExcel Excelsior College Exams:

UExcel exams are offered in a variety of subjects and provide students the opportunity to earn college credit by exam.

  • AP (Advanced Placement) Exams:

AP Exams are generally taken as a final part of the AP course the student is completing while in high school.

  • IB (International Baccalaureate) Exams:

IB exams are taken at the end of a student's participation in an IB program at their high school.

For more assistance on the types of exams Northeastern Jr. College accepts, please contact the Northeastern Records Office at (970) 521-6700. 

To schedule a CLEP exam, please contact the Student Success Center at (970) 521-6663.

If you have taken one of these standardized exams at another location, order an official transcript/score report and have it sent to Northeastern for evaluation:  Northeastern Jr. College, Records Office, 100 College Avenue, Sterling, CO  80751

View a list of accepted scores for:

  • CLEP Exams
  • DSST Exams
  • UExcel Excelsior College Exams
  • AP (Advanced Placement) Exams
  • IB (International Baccalaureate) Exams

Northeastern will designate equivalent courses for CLEP and DSST exams or a generic transfer equivalency if credits are not available.


Institutional Challenge Exams are faculty-developed tests.  They assess your mastery of the competencies for the Northeastern course being taught.  For more information about Institutional Challenge Exams, please contact the Northeastern Registrar at (970) 521-6700.

Institutional Challenge Exams are the way Northeastern abides by Colorado Revised Statutes 23-1-125, which requires public institutions of higher education to offer students an option for testing out of core courses.

Challenge Exam:
Credits Charge Total
1 $75.00 $75.00
2 $75.00 $75.00
3 $30.00/credit $90.00
4 $30.00/credit $120.00
5 $30.00/credit $150.00

Published guides contain credit recommendations made by reputable third party organizations for certain trainings and/or credentials.  Approved published guides include the American Council on Education (ACE), National Guide to College Credit for Workplace Training, the ACE Military Guide, and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS). 

Additionally, credit for learning gained in the U.S. military (if applicable to a student's declared degree or certificate at Northeastern) is generally transferred based upon ACE credit recommendations found on a Joint Service Transcript (JST) for current or former Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy personnel.  Air Force personnel will have their credit documented on a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) transcript.

To be evaluated for possible credit, you should order your official transcript from the provider (JST, CCAF) or third party organization (ACE, NCCRS, etc.) and have it sent directly from the issuing organization to Northeastern for evaluation:  Northeastern Jr. College, Records Office, 100 College Avenue, Sterling, CO  80751.

Knowledge and skills acquired through work and lifelong learning may be evaluated and validated through a formal portfolio assessment process.

Any GT Pathways credit awarded by one institution based on a portfolio review shall be accepted in transfer and applied to GT Pathways requirements at Northeastern Jr. College.

For more information about portfolio assessment please contact the Northeastern Records Office at (970) 521-6700.

Credits Charge Total
1 $75.00/credit $75.00
2 $70.00/credit $140.00
3 $65.00/credit $195.00
4 $60.00/credit $240.00
5 $55.00/credit $275.00

Northeastern may evaluate non-collegiate instructional programs that result in industry certification, professional licensure, apprenticeship completion, and other workplace skills development.  Faculty subject-matter experts will evaluate the prior learning and identify if the learning warrants the awarding of credit. 

For more information about the evaluation of the type of non-collegiate instruction please contact the Northeastern Records Office at (970) 521-6700.  You may also take the Colorado Prior Learning Questionnaire to see if you may be eligible for credit for your experience.

Click here for the CO Prior Learning Questionnaire

Credits Charge
1 $75.00
2 $75.00
3 $75.00
4 $75.00
5 $75.00

A state institution of higher education that admits as a junior a student who holds an Associate of Arts Degree, Associate of Applied Science Degree or Associate of Science Degree that is the subject of a statewide degree transfer agreement shall not require the student to complete any additional credits to fulfill general education requirements.


Cindy Carey
Student Guidance Coordinator
970-571-0131 (mobile)
Hays Student Center-104
Cindy Carey
Jaecey Nichols
Student Success Specialist
Hays Student Center
Jaecey Nichols
Andrea Orin
Director of Student Success, Equity and Inclusion
Hays Student Center
Andrea Orin
Vanessa Soliz
Finish What You Started Coordinator
970-521-6672 (mobile)
Hays Student Center
Vanessa Soliz
Andrea Wasson
Administrative Assistant III
Hays Student Center 104
Andrea Wasson