Credit for Prior Learning: Services to Help Institutions Accelerate Degree Completion

You might wonder, what is credit for prior learning? Credit for prior learning (CPL) is a practice postsecondary institutions use to award students academic credit for demonstrated competency and mastery earned through experiential learning—such as independent study, noncredit courses, work experience, licensure or certification, or a credit by examination program. In other words, prior learning is a term educators use to describe learning that a student acquires outside of a traditional academic environment. This credit is awarded to students at or close to the time of admission.

Since the mid-1970’s, some higher education institutions have standardized the practice of awarding academic credit for prior learning by taking into consideration military training, national examinations, and individual assessments. Currently, only 27% of postsecondary institutions have established programs (NCES, 2013); however, with an anticipated shortfall of qualified employees by 2020 (Carnevale, Smith & Strohl, 2013), more institutions are looking to adopt this practice to help students graduate faster with less financial strain.

To further examine CPL, we have created a four-part podcast series. In this first podcast, we talk with Chris Johnson and Patricia Brewer, who are regional liaisons for the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service. Listen in as they talk about their roles as regional liaisons, provide insight into the rise of the number of institutions seeking help to implement this practice, and their perspectives on how CPL programs are impacting today’s students.

Visit our website for more resources and information on CPL and how it has been successfully implemented across the country.





Carnevale, A.P., Smith, N., & Strohl, J. (2013). Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020. Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2012; Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2004-09; and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012. (NCES 2013-183). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from