Saturday, July 20, 2024
The RP Group

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



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. At the same time, two nascent 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.

RP Group Lead

Ireri Valenzuela, Senior Researcher and Associate Director, Leading from the Middle

RP Group Team Members

Mike Howe, Don McIntyre, Victoria Spencer


Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce


Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, Moran Technology Group

Reports and Briefs

Beyond the Classroom: Using Prior Learning to Assessment to Advance Student Success

Policy brief outlining recommendations for state- and local-level changes designed to foster Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

Prior Learning Assessment and Competency-Based Education: An Overview of Programs, Policies, and Practices

Research report outlining findings on national and state efforts to implement PLA and Competency-based Education (CBE) and implications for broader adoption in California.

News and Events

Interested in the potential for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and Competency-based Education (CBE) to validate students' skills and experience gained outside the community college environment--thereby saving students money and accelerating their time to completion?

The RP Group, and its partners the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the Moran Group, recently released two publications on the adoption of PLA and CBE at the national and state levels. Click on the Resources tab to learn more.



  • Focus Populations: Nontraditional students, Veterans
  • Status: Complete
  • Contact: Ireri Valenzuela, Senior Researcher and Associate Director, Leading from the Middle,

Areas of Impact


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