3-18: Credit for Prior Learning and Prior Learning Assessment Policy

Policy Overview

This policy establishes and describes the process for Santa Fe Community College (SFCC or College) students to apply to receive credit for prior learning or to complete a prior learning assessment; this policy also outlines the guidelines on how those credits will be awarded.

Scope and Applicability

This policy applies to all SFCC students who are seeking credit for prior learning or college credit for life experience measured by prior learning assessments.

Policy Statement

The purpose of this policy is to increase student retention and reduce time toward degree completion. SFCC recognizes that students may gain college-level knowledge through life and work experience outside of traditional academic settings. SFCC also recognizes that there are skills that are acquired through job-related or life experience that are applicable to prior learning assessment. Students who have obtained an industry standard, state or nationally recognized credential, official military transcript or have completed other measures of competence are qualified to apply for credit for prior learning.


  1. ACE Guidelines are the American Council on Education’s Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services, which outline credit recommendations for military transcripts.
  2. CAEL Standards are set by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning for how prior learning assessments should be performed and how college credit should be awarded (ex: Ten Standards for Assessing Learning and Ensuring Quality)
  3. Challenge Exams include College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Standardized Subject Tests (DSST) and Advanced Placement exams.
  4. Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is academic credit that is awarded to students who have learning that has occurred outside of the traditional classroom setting, obtained a nationally recognized credential, have obtained an industry standard certificate, certification or licensure and/or have military training that is documented on a Joint Service Transcript or Community College of the Air Force transcript.
  5. Crosswalk of Training is charts which map prior coursework or training to their college-level equivalents as a means of communicating approved course equivalents across the institution and/or system.
  6. Industry Standards are the generally accepted requirements attained by the members of an industry.
  7. Multiple Measures of Competence include testing that is done to evaluate skills that are learned on the job that reflect a measurement of competence in certain skills. Examples of these tests are Portfolio, Challenge Exams or demonstrated skills, Crosswalk of Training, Standardized Test.
  8. Nationally Recognized is acknowledgement from an accrediting source that sets a national standard for competence in a specific profession.
  9. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is the process by which learning that has occurred outside of the traditional classroom setting that did not result in a specific certification or licensure is evaluated, through measures such as the College Level Examination Program, DANTES Standardized Subject Tests (DSST) and Advanced Placement exams, portfolio and challenge exam. This learning is assessed and evaluated by a relevant subject matter expert in the department or school that the prior learning applies to.
  10. Student Prior Learning Portfolio is a formal communication presented by the student to the College as a petition requesting credit or recognition for self-directed learning that has taken place outside of the classroom. A typical portfolio contains documents to provide sufficient evidence that a subject matter expert can use as a basis for an evaluation to measure if certain learning objectives have been met (Policy 3-18 Credit for Prior Learning).
  11. Subject Matter Expert is a department designated employee who is trained and has knowledge, experience and expertise about a specific course or field of study.
  12. Transfer Credit is academic credit earned at other postsecondary institutions that is transferred to SFCC.

Policy Process

SFCC recognizes that students may have had employment training, taken applicable non-college credit courses or have relevant military experience which may be eligible for college credit. Credit for prior learning and prior learning assessment provide opportunities for students to document their college-level knowledge and to earn academic credit. SFCC also recognizes the importance of being nationally compliant with CAEL standards for assessing prior learning, awarding college credit and for ensuring the quality of the credit being awarded. This includes awarding academic credit toward a Certification or an associate degree program to students who have:

  • Completed a College Level Examination Program (CLEP), DANTES Standardized Subject Tests (DSST) or Advanced Placement exam;
  • Joint Service Transcript or Community College of the Air Force transcripts defined by the American Council on Education Guidelines;
  • Earned an industry standard license and/or certification;
  • A portfolio demonstrating college-level learning outcomes;
  • An SFCC approved Crosswalk of Training. 
  1. The student applying for credit for prior learning or prior learning assessment must:
    1. Be currently enrolled;
    2. Meet with the appropriate department chair, lead faculty or designated subject matter expert in the field of study for which they are requesting the CPL or PLA credit
    3. Complete all application materials, and
    4. Have paid all fees, if applicable.
  2. The department chair, lead faculty or designated subject matter expert will:
    1. Assist the student with information and the evaluation of potential CPL and/or arranging for evaluation applicable to a prior learning assessment.
    2. Verify licensure and/or certificate validity through relevant agency verification.
    3. Ensure that the credit being awarded is consistent with CAEL Guidelines for awarding CPL and PLA.
    4. If applicable, ensure that the credit being awarded for military experience is consistent with ACE Guidelines.
    5. Evaluate if a fee for CPL/PLA is due from the student and informing the student of their financial responsibility of such fees.
  3. The Registrar’s Office will:
    1. Ensure that the CPL/PLA credit is officially placed on the student’s transcript during the review of their Petition to Graduate.
    2. Issue credit as “Transfer Credit” on the official transcript, only after verifying that all fees have been paid, if applicable.
    3. Ensure the residency requirements are waived if the CPL/PLA being awarded is for program core requirements.
    4. Retain the completed CPL packet and/or CPL/PLA form.

Statement of Accountability and Responsibility

The President, through the Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs and the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, shall be responsible for enforcing academic policies and procedures. The Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs shall work with the different departments and offices to comply with this policy and develop procedures that will enforce this policy regarding awareness, prevention, and remediation.


NM SB153: College Credit for Military Service
Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2013
American Council on Education, Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Services


SFCC Governing Board approved: 11/30/16

Associated Procedures