Credit for Prior and Alternative Learning

Life gives you experience; St. Kate’s gives you credit.

What is CPAL?

Use our Credit for Prior and Alternative Learning (CPAL) program to earn a degree in less time and save money!

Most higher education institutions recognize prior learning in the form of graded college-level courses taken for credit at a regionally accredited college or university; but at St. Kate’s, we know learning goes beyond that! We’ve developed our CPAL program to acknowledge the wide variety of educational opportunities that life offers.

Whether you want to convert a prior learning experience to credit or are looking for new learning opportunities available online, you’ll need to document your learning with a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA).

All CPAL credit is considered transfer credit and so is not considered resident credit for financial aid or other purposes.

What's eligible for CPAL credit?

Military/Organizational Learning
  • Military Courses, Exams, & Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) Experiences
  • Employer Training
  • Professional Certifications
  • Online Learning Organization Courses/Exams
College Classroom
  • Continuing Education Units (CEU’s)
  • Non-regionally Accredited College Courses
  • Audited or Non-graded Courses
Individualized Learning
  • Job Experience/Training
  • Volunteer Experiences
  • Hobbies/Interests

How do I begin?

Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs) are the official accepted documentation for converting your learning into transferable credit. PLAs are only accepted at the undergraduate level and will appear on your St. Kate’s transcript with an “S” grade. Assessments may be completed using one of three pathways: Credit Recommendation Services, National Exams, or Portfolios.

Are you looking to fulfill a particular core or equivalency? Use our Pathways Index to see if there is a National Exam or Credit Recommendation Services (CRS) pathway already pre-approved.

Pathways Index

If a pre-approved pathway exists, use the pathway tab at the top of the page to find out more about the specific course/exam approved and steps to take to transfer it. If no pathway has been pre-approved, you may be able to complete a portfolio or request a review of a CRS course or exam. Click on the Portfolio & CRS tabs at the top of the page to find out more about each.

What assessments are accepted?

Credit Recommendation Services (CRS)
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
    • ACE Registry of Credit Recommendation
    • Joint Military Transcript
    • Sophia Transcript
    • Straighterline Transcript
  • National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)
    • NOCTI College Credit Recommendation Report
    • Excelsior College Transcript
  • World Education Services (WES)
    • WES Transcript
National Exams
  • AP: Advanced Placement
  • Cambridge Int’l: A-Level or Pre-U
  • CAPE: Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam
  • CLEP: College Level Exam Program
  • DSST: Dantes Subject Standardized Tests
  • IB: International Baccaluareate
  • UExcel (Excelsior College)
  • Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL)
    • NCCRS / Learningcounts Transcript

Credit Recommendation Services (CRS)

Consider CRS assessments if you have military, organizational learning, or international university course work.

Courses or exams reviewed and recommended for credit by the American Council on Education (ACE), National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) and World Education Service (WES) are eligible for transfer if they also meet our liberal arts transfer policy requirements.

Search for exams or online courses that will allow you to document individualized learning or learning from college courses not eligible for direct transfer; or search online courses for new learning opportunities.

Explore the eligible learning options below to see detailed information on the steps to earn credit for your prior learning.

  1. Check out the ACE Military Guides to see the number and type of credits recommended for courses or occupations. (See the National Exams section for more info on the DSST military exams.)
  2. Order your Joint Services Transcript.
  3. You may also request a preapproval of the training with admissions by providing the transcript or identifying the courses or occupation numbers.
  4. St. Kate’s will complete a review and post in our TES database.
  5. Admissions will notify you of the results.

Follow these simple steps:

Check the CRS Transfer Guide

ACE & NCCRS have reviewed many organizations’ courses & exams. Check the St. Kate’s Credit Recommendation Service (CRS) Transfer Guide to see if course/exam you’ve taken or intend to take has been preapproved for credit.

St. Kate's Valued Partners
St. Kate’s has teamed up with two of the ACE approved online learning organizations that offer a large selection of courses from which to choose. If you’re a student interested in acquiring new learning or who has had some prior learning in an area that wasn’t transferrable, Sophia or Straighterline courses may be the right option for you.

These courses are self-paced & reasonably priced to fit into your schedule and budget. We recommend visiting these partners’ websites today for details on all their course offerings, costs & transfer information.

Foreign Language Exams
St Kate’s also administers the ACE approved American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language exams on site. ACE has recommended for credit—and St. Kate’s has reviewed for transfer—five of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages/Oral Proficiency Interview exams. These are offered in over 50 languages.

View the ACTFL info sheet for more information.

Determine Course/Exam Status

If you find the course/exam you’ve taken has been approved, you may simply order the relevant transcript. (See last step below).

If a course/exam you’ve taken does not appear on St. Kate’s CRS Guide, then check the ACE National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training or the NCCRS Member Organization Search to see if either service has recommended it for credit. If so, you may submit a request for evaluation to your counselor or advisor. (If the course/exam does not appear, then it is not eligible for transfer using this PLA method).

Wait for Results

Course/exam review will be completed & posted to the CRS guide and you’ll be notified of the results so you know in advance how the course/exam will apply.

Register with the Organization and/or Order a Transcript

If approved, simply register directly with the organization offering the course/exam and order a transcript upon completion.

American Council on Education Credit Recommendations

National College Credit Recommendation Services

  • NOCTI College Credit Recommendation Report
    • NOCTI collaborates with the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) to evaluate all of its credentials. Experienced industry experts and professors evaluated the rigor of the NOCTI assessments to translate the content into college credit equivalencies.
    • An NOCTI College Credit Recommendation Report is generated as part of the NOCTI score report package at no charge and may be used as the official record for the credit recommendation if sent directly to St. Kate’s. If it is provided to the student, it must be in a sealed and stamped unopened envelope.
  • Excelsior College Transcript (may order this transcript through the NOCTI link in lieu of Recommendation Report)

Students who have attended colleges or universities outside of the U.S. must submit a World Education Services (WES) evaluation in order to have their courses evaluated for transfer. Courses are transferred based on WES recommendations for credits.

To learn more about World Education Services or to order a transcript, visit the WES website below.

National Exams

If you have prior learning not documented by one of our national credit evaluators, then a national exam may be the right option for you. There’s a wide variety of exams offered in many subject areas that have been pre-approved.

Click on the exams below for detailed transfer information, transfer guides, and links to the exam websites.

High school students may take AP exams to earn both high school and college credit. University credit will only be awarded when the final exam is taken and passed with an acceptable level.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please see the AP Exam Guide.

In order to receive credit, all students completing an AP exam must provide an AP score report.

For more information, visit the AP Students website.

Similar to the AP program in the United States, these are international exams in subject areas that may be taken while in high school and are eligible for college credit with an acceptable exam score.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please see the Cambridge Exam Guide.

To order your transcript or for additional information on the offerings, visit the Cambridge International website.

International exams offered in subject areas. Similar to the Cambridge Advanced Level exams. Subjects are identified as units and you can receive certification for a unit of study that can be reviewed for transfer.

To order your CAPE transcript or for additional information on the CAPE offerings visit the CAPE website.

The CLEP exams allow all adults the opportunity to earn credit for either educational or professional experiences by taking and passing subject tests.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please check the CLEP Exam Guide.

To order your CLEP transcript or for additional information on CLEP exams, visit the Collegeboard website.

The DSST exams offer students the opportunity to earn credit for either educational or professional experiences by taking and passing subject area tests. Upper and lower level exams are available.

We accept ACE recommendations for credits earned.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please check the DSST Exam Guide.

For transcript information & more, Military personnel may visit the DSST website.

Non-Military students can order a DSST transcript by visiting the DSST website.

The IB program offers high school students the opportunity to earn both high school and college credit by taking and passing subject area tests.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please check the IB Exam Guide.

To order your IB transcript or for additional information on the IB program, visit the IB website.

UExcel are exams offered through Excelsior College in various subject areas and are open to all students.

For a list of exams accepted, score required, and credits earned, please check the UExcel Exam Guide.

To order your UExcel transcript or for additional information on the UExcel exams, visit the UExcel website.


If you think your prior learning is equivalent to a specific course in your chosen program, but it doesn’t meet the criteria for a credit recommendation service or exam, you could earn credit by developing a written portfolio. (Portfolios may not be used to complete electives in any area).

Your portfolio will formally collect and document your learning, allowing you to reflect on and assess your experiences.

  1. Identify which course at St. Kate’s matches your learning and for which you’d like to earn PLA credit.
  2. Consult with your admission counselor (new students) or contact Academic Advising (current students).
  3. Determine that the course is eligible for completion with PLA and get department/advisor approval.
  4. Determine whether CPAL pathways 1 or 2 are options. If not, the portfolio is the appropriate pathway.
  5. Get the syllabus for your St. Kate’s course.
  6. Enroll in one of two portfolio courses (cost, registration and additional information available at
    • CAEL 100 is a three‐credit, six‐week, instructor‐led online course. These three credits will be transferred to St. Catherine University. In the course, you’ll identify areas of learning to be evaluated for college‐level competency.
    • Self‐paced, interactive online workshop that you will have access to for six months. No credit is earned through this workshop. Students then purchase a portfolio upon successful completion of the self-paced course.
  7. Provide the syllabus, create your portfolio, and request an evaluation for the chosen course.
  8. Upon completion of the CAEL100 or any completed portfolios, students may order a transcript through learningcounts.