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College Credit For Previous Work or Life Experiences

Students with life and work experience can shorten the road to attaining a college degree by applying for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). PLA is a process through which students can earn college credit by identifying and documenting college-level learning that has been acquired through life experiences.

Students may choose to validate their expertise through a number of evaluation procedures. Awarding of credits at Windward Community College applies ONLY to degrees and/or certificates student is enrolled in at this institution. Other colleges and community colleges, even within the University of Hawai’i system, may have slightly different policies for accepting transfer credits. The granting of credits at Windward Community College in no way obligates another institution to accept the same credits or apply those credits in the same manner. The number of credit hours that may be earned through the PLA program varies and is dependent on the type of PLA assessment given. PLA credits may not be used to meet the residency requirement of 12 credit hours or 20% credit hours toward a degree or certificate.

Students can demonstrate their learning competencies through a variety of Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) options at Windward Community College:

  • credit by institutional exams/course challenge
  • equivalency exams
  • non-collegiate sponsored education credit
  • portfolio-based assessments

4 Ways to earn Credit Through PLA

Credit by Examination/Course Challenge

Students may apply for credits by having official transcripts from examination institutions sent to Windward Community College. Students must meet qualifying scores set by the campus in order to be awarded credit. These examination program include the following:

  • Advanced Placement (AP) Examinations: The Advanced Placement Examinations are administered at high schools by the Educational Testing Service for the college Entrance Examination Board for students who have completed specific college-level courses in high school. For program details, see For the University’s credit policy, students should consult their counselor
  • College Level Examination Program (CLEP): The College Board also offers tests of basic entry-level college material through its College Level Examination Program (CLEP). For program details, see Students must achieve CLEP examination score at or above specified levels of achievement in order to be awarded credits.
  • DANTES Subject Standardized Tests (DSST): Students are advised to discuss test scores with the PLA Counselor Representative for consideration of transferring in credits.
  • Excelsior College Equivalency Exams (ECE or U Excel): Administered by PearsonVue. Students are advised to discuss test scores with the PLA Counselor Representative for consideration of transferring in credits.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): Credits earned from institutions of higher education outside the U.S. may be transferred in some cases. Transcripts and related documents are to include course descriptions and MUST have certified English translations attached. The College will grant credits and/or waivers on the basis of IB higher level examinations.

Non-Collegiate Sponsored Education Credit

This option evaluates learning from courses completed in non-collegiate settings (e.g. professional license, labor union courses, agency training programs, professional workshops, and military courses. Examples of such education credit include Army ACE Registry Transcript System (AARTS), Sailor Marine ACE Registry Transcript (SMART), American Council on Education (ACE), College Credit Recommendation Service, and Professional Licenses or Industry Certifications (nationally- or state-certified professionals). Documentation of non-collegiate training must be provided to the program that would be accepting credit in transfer. Course credit recommendations provided by the ACE in the National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs may be used by programs in deciding on the type and amount of credit that may be granted. AARTS/SMARTS transcripts sent directly to the College will be evaluated and appropriate credits granted toward a specific degree and/or certificate. Windward Community College reserves the right to reject recommendations made by the American Council on Education (ACE) guidelines. For questions on awarding credits for various licensing, please see the PLA representative in the Counseling Office.

Portfolio-Based Assessment

Students can document their learning acquired through previous work experience by preparing a portfolio which provides evidence of learning from outside the traditional classroom. The documentation and evidence are reviewed by a panel of subject matter experts who use course Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) as the basis to compare the portfolio documentation and evidence. Based on this review process, recommendations will be made to award the appropriate number of college credits and a grade of “”PBA”, which does not give grade points but only course credits. Students pay equal to 60% of the tuition fee for the course credits requested. Portfolio-based assessment is recommended for students who have substantial professional or community experience and college-level writing skills (i.e. qualify for ENG 100 placement).

Steps to Receive Credit for Prior Learning

  1. To inquire about earning college credits for your prior learning experiences, schedule an appointment with a counselor by contacting the WCC Counseling Office 808-235-7413.
  2. Decide which Windward Community College course(s) you want prior learning credit for and which PLA method best suits your needs.
  3. Counselor will coordinate with appropriate faculty to determine if PLA best fits your academic plan.
  4. File appropriate forms with Admissions & Records by deadlines
  5. Upon approval, pay the required fees
  6. Credit by Exam: 50% of regular tuition for course
  7. Portfolio-based Assessment: 60% of regular tuition for course and portfolio assessment fees (if applicable).
  8. No additional fees charged for equivalency examination assessment or non-collegiate-sponsored educational credit assessment.
  9. Fees are non-refundable, regardless if credits are awarded or not.
  10. Submit appropriate documentation as directed by PLA representative and/or faculty member.
  11. Grades will be documented on your official record.