Prior Learning Assessment Program
Bucks County Community College (Bucks) recognizes that students enter the College from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, some of which may involve college-level learning. The College is committed to providing pathways for students to proceed along smooth transitions without delays, duplication of courses, or loss of credit. As such, the College maintains a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program in order that students will be afforded the assessment methods by which they can document their college-level learning and pursue equivalent credit toward courses in their Program of Study.
To be eligible to participate in the Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program at Bucks students must be in good academic and financial standing with the College, have successfully completed a semester at Bucks, currently enrolled, and actively pursuing classes in a Program of Study that includes requirements for the course(s) they propose to challenge.
There are limitations to the total number of equivalent credits earned through PLA that students can use toward their degree or certificate at Bucks, based upon the College’s graduation residency policy. The nontraditional ungraded credits that can be used toward a Bucks degree or certificate include all equivalent credit awarded through PLA (marked as CL, CX, and/or LE on the Bucks transcript where the grade would go) in addition to any Advanced Placement (marked as AP on the Bucks transcript where the grade would go), Military equivalent (marked as ME on the Bucks transcript where the grade would go) and Transfer credit (marked as TR on the Bucks transcript where the grade would go) brought into Bucks.
Equivalent credit awarded via Prior Learning Assessment may not be transferable to a Bachelor’s degree program. However, students should check directly with the intended transfer institution to determine transferability and/or the possibility of applying for a similar credit equivalency award process at the transfer school.
Students begin the PLA process by completing, signing and submitting an application. The PLA application is available online, in the Advising and Transfer Office in the Rollins building on the Newtown campus, and at the Student Services area of each campus location (Newtown, Upper Bucks, Epstein Campus at Lower Bucks). All students should feel free to contact the Office of Prior Learning Assessment directly for advice regarding their questions, concerns, and/or developing their individualized PLA plan. In order to complete the PLA Application the student should:
1) Carefully consider the course requirements for their Bucks Program of Study.
2) Review the Master Course Outline, to understand the course objectives of the course for which PLA is being sought.
3) Consider whether their prior learning has included mastery of the course objectives for any specific course(s) in their Bucks Program of Study.
4) Identify any course(s) to potentially challenge for equivalent credit.
5) Determine which course(s) they propose to challenge and indicate this on the application.
6) Explore, with the PLA advisor if desired, the pathways available to document their prior learning that led to mastery of the course objectives.
7) Select the most appropriate pathway(s) or assessment method(s) by which to document the prior learning and indicate this on the PLA Application.
The completed PLA Application should be submitted to the Office of Prior Learning Assessment in The Advising and Transfer Center in the Rollins Center at 275 Swamp Road; Newtown, PA 18940. Official supporting documentation, which verifies the learning, will also need to be provided, with the type varying depending upon the pathway.
The complexity of the actual PLA process for individual students can vary along a broad spectrum. For example, some PLA plans, such as those for Challenge by Exam, are straightforward and may require little to no advising. In those cases, the student should feel free to use the resources available through the PLA web pages and publications to create and pursue their plan to completion. On the other end of the spectrum, some situations may be complex and even involve multiple assessment processes and the student may benefit by consulting with the Office of Prior Learning Assessment to obtain advice for creating their individualized PLA plan.
All students should feel free to contact the Office of Prior Learning Assessment directly for advice regarding their questions, concerns, and/or developing their individualized PLA plan.
Pathways – Assessment Methods
The College recognizes the three primary assessment methods by which students can document their college-level learning - examination, evaluation of non-collegiate instruction, and individual assessment.
Challenge by Examination (CBE)
Many Bucks courses are open for Bucks students to challenge by examination. The College recognizes and makes available departmental challenge exams (CREX) along with the standardized exams of CLEP, DSST (formerly known as DANTES) and NYU’s Foreign Language Testing Service. The specific courses and corresponding exams are reviewed annually with updated lists made available on the Testing Center, and PLA web pages.
Scores at or above the minimum will lead to equivalent credit for the associated Bucks course, but no letter grade will be awarded. If the student does not achieve the minimum score, they must wait at least three months to repeat a CLEP, six months to repeat most CREX exams (except for NURS101/102), and 90 days for a DSST exam. Credit awarded from an exam will not replace a grade on the student's Bucks transcript. If a student has previously taken or is currently enrolled in the course for which they wish to take a CREX exam, the student must obtain permission of the Academic Dean for the Department in which the course is taught. The code “CL” will be indicated on the Bucks transcript where the grade would be for credit granted for standardized exams (CLEP, DSST, NYU) or “CX” for CREX exams.
Students should feel free to contact the Office of Prior Learning Assessment directly with any questions and/or concerns regarding challenging courses by examination.
Evaluation of Non-Collegiate Instruction
The evaluation of non-collegiate instruction often results in Credit Recommendations and/or Articulation Agreements that provide students with specified opportunities to pursue equivalent credit. Students who have successfully completed instruction and training programs outside the traditional college classroom may be eligible to pursue equivalent credit via this PLA pathway, which evaluates these programs. Examples of programs that have qualified students for equivalent credit include tech-prep programs at secondary schools; noncredit continuing education programs at Bucks; and various training programs for professional. Summary information about the many Credit Recommendations and Articulation Agreements is maintained on the College’s PLA web pages and in the PLA Office in The Advising and Transfer Center in the Rollins Center at 275 Swamp Road; Newtown, PA 18940.
The College recognizes the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (National CCRS, formerly known as PONSI), two national bodies that evaluate non-collegiate instruction and training programs. If the program the student successfully completed has been evaluated by one of these two bodies, the student has the opportunity to challenge a Bucks course(s) based upon their credit recommendations.
Students should feel free to contact the Office of Prior Learning Assessment directly with any questions and/or concerns regarding challenging courses by the evaluation of non-collegiate instruction.
Individual Assessment via Portfolio
The opportunity for individual assessment is provided via the portfolio method at Bucks, by which students challenge a particular course(s) in their program of study. Students must obtain authorization to pursue this method prior to beginning any portfolio preparation.
The College is committed to providing pathways for students to proceed along smooth educational transitions without delays, duplication of courses, or loss of credit. The Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program at Bucks provides students with the assessment methods by which they can document the college-level learning they have achieved outside the traditional college classroom and pursue equivalent credit toward courses in their program of study. This allows students to save time and money by not having to take courses for material they have already mastered.
The complexity of the actual PLA process for individual students can vary along a broad spectrum. All students should feel free to contact the Office of Prior Learning Assessment directly for advice regarding their questions, concerns, and/or developing their individualized PLA plan.
The Office of Prior Learning Assessment
Advising and Transfer Center - Rollins Center, 1st floor
PLA Coordinator: 215-968-8161