Credit for Prior Learning at Columbia College

Columbia College awards Credit for Prior Learning (CPL), giving you credit for what you already know through work and life experience.

If course test-outs such as CLEP exams are not an option, CPL credit may be awarded.

Before applying CPL credit, students must complete at least 12 hours of Columbia College credit and have completed First Year Writing Seminar (ENGL 133W) or its equivalent with a “C” grade or higher. If completed at Columbia College, the English requirements may count toward the 12-hour minimum.

Columbia College awards a maximum of 15 CPL credit hours. CPL will not be awarded when a student has earned college credit in a similar course. CPL credit does not count toward the college’s residency requirement.

Arts CPL equivalencies
Course title Columbia College equivalency
Drawing I ARTS 120
Painting I ARTS 130
Photography I ARTS 250
Graphic Design I ARTS 216
Printmaking I ARTS 262
Biological Sciences CPL equivalencies
Course title Columbia College equivalency
Medical Terminology Biol 230
  • FINC 295 Risk and Insurance – individuals holding an active Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) or Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation.
  • FINC 298 Personal Financial Planning - individuals holding an active Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) designation.
  • FINC 354 Investments - individuals holding an active Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC) or NASD General Securities Representative (Series 7) or Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) from relevant body.
  • FINC 397 Principles of Real Estate - individuals holding an active Real Estate Salesperson or Broker’s State License.
  • MGMT 261 Introduction to Human Resource Management – individuals holding an active SHRM-CP, SHRM-SCP, PHR, SPHR, or GPHR from the relevant Human Resources society or institute.
  • MGMT 365 Compensation and Benefits – individuals holding an active CCP, GRP or ACCP with the World at Work Total Rewards Association.
  • MGMT 385 Business Project Management – individuals holding an active PMP, CAPM, PfMP, PgMP, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP certification/designation from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
Computer and math CPL equivalencies
Course title Columbia College equivalency
CISS 234 Visual Basic
CISS 236 COBOL Programming
CISS 238 Java Programming
CISS 280 System Analysis and Design I
CISS 320 System Analysis and Design II
CISS 338 Advanced Java Programming
CISS 365 Project Management
Computer and math CPL equivalencies
Course title Columbia College equivalency
CJAD 201 Criminal Investigation
CJAD 203 Crime Scene Investigation
CJAD 205 Crime Scene Photography
CJAD 306 Military Justice Systems
CJAD 351 Community Based Corrections
MSCJ 561 Crisis Intervention

Standards for quality

We evaluate CPL credit using the following criteria:

  • It has general applicability outside the specific situation in which it was acquired;
  • It articulates theories, principles and general techniques;
  • It has both a theoretical and practical understanding of the subject area;
  • It may be assessed by a faculty expert;
  • It is of college-level quality as determined by the faculty expert;
  • It meets specific course objectives or competencies and has a relationship to degree aspirations or educational goals;
  • The knowledge or skill represented as learning is current with that expected in the classroom/employment situation; and
  • The level of confidence equals or exceeds what would normally be considered a C level of performance in the classroom. 

Portfolio assessment

Students seeking CPL credit must submit a portfolio of relevant information that describes the learning acquired in a specific course area. Students must have adequate writing skills.

An evaluation assessment fee of $75 per credit hour must be paid upon submission of the portfolio for each course submitted for review. If credit is awarded, no additional fees are assessed.

A full-time faculty member in the corresponding subject will assess each portfolio. If the faculty member determines knowledge of the subject is college-level and equal to a grade of “C” or higher, credit will be awarded. If the knowledge is deemed to be insufficient, the faculty member will deny credit. A student will be asked to submit additional evidence if the faculty member determines more information is needed prior to making a recommendation.

Each college has policies regarding acceptance of CPL. Students are responsible for knowing the acceptance policy for any school to which CPL credit may be transferred. Most employers recognize CPL, but some do not. Students are responsible for knowing an employer’s CPL policy.

Prior to submitting a portfolio, students should:

Conduct a knowledge inventory. Review job history, area of study or special training, volunteer work, hobbies or other activities. List areas of knowledge and skills acquired.

  • Choose areas for which college credit will be sought. Evaluate prior learning based on ability to demonstrate knowledge. Make sure that it is equivalent with the college course and to the need of college credit in that subject.
  • Find appropriate course descriptions. For each subject, search the Columbia College catalog to locate a description of the actual course that best reflects the knowledge you’ve gained. Make sure the course has been approved for the relevant degree program, and that it is on the list of courses approved for CPL portfolio assessment.

Each course requires information in its own folder or binder.

Information in the portfolio should be typewritten using 12-point Arial font, double spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. Pages should be numbered.

Once you submit a portfolio, it becomes an academic record and property of Columbia College. It cannot be returned and will be retained for one year.

Cover page

On one page (maximum), summarize what you learned during the experiences proposed for this credit

Table of contents

List all jobs held, including full time, part time and volunteer work. Note duties, skills and expertise used in performing job skills

Life experience

List community/religious activities, membership in clubs/organizations, training programs or non-credit courses, hobbies/recreation, cultural pursuits and independent research


  • Administration or effectively managing, handling and directing places, units, events and situations.
  • Communication or effectively listening, sending and responding to messages in a variety of audiences.
  • Critical thinking or effectively analyzing problems, ideas and situations.
  • Creativity or effectively producing innovative ideas, designs and methods for new and/or existing situations, events and procedures as well as artistic expression.
  • Interpersonal relations or effectively interacting with others.
  • Investigation and research or effectively seeking out information.
  • Supervision and leadership or effectively overseeing and directing people.

(Source: American Council on Education)

Goal statement

On one page (maximum0, students should discuss how their educational goals relate to their professional life and personal goals. Ask yourself the following questions (Source: Vermont State Colleges and their Student handbook Educational Assessment and Portfolio Preparation)

Am I interested in:

  • learning a new profession?
  • broadening my knowledge and skills in certain areas?
  • qualifying for a graduate or professional school?
  • increasing my competencies on the job?
  • enriching my life through learning?
  • acquiring credentials for career advancement?
  • changing careers?


The narrative is in two sections of the portfolio: the life experiences analysis and the competencies section. The narrative conveys to the faculty member knowledge of the material outlined in the course description. A successful narrative:

  • is well-written, using professional vocabulary as appropriate
  • describes knowledge of the subject
  • specifies where, when and how knowledge was acquired
  • relates learning to every topic noted in the course description and syllabus
  • introduces each piece of evidence

The narrative must be at least two pages and no more than 10 pages in length. It should be organized either chronologically, citing each learning experience in sequence, or topically, discussing each topic within the course separately, grouping the learning experiences according to topic

Supporting documentation

Direct documentation provides evidence of knowledge and skills and how they pertain specifically to the topics in the course description. This evidence also supports the statement in the narrative pertaining to learning experiences.

We require two types of evidence: Primary and secondary.

Primary Official Documentation

  • Letters from employers/supervisors (originals)
  • Letters for business partners/consultants (originals)
  • Letters for clients and vendors (originals)
  • Letters from leaders of professional community organizations (originals)
  • Job descriptions, job evaluations and military evaluations (copies)
  • Education and award certificates/licenses (copies)

All primary official documentation must have organization letterhead/logo. Describe position or activity and include accurate dates in month/year format.

Secondary official documentation

  • Letters from members of professional community organizations/activities (originals)
  • Notarized letters from coworkers, friends, family members who have specific knowledge/activity (originals)

All secondary official documentation must be notarized if an organization letterhead/logo is not available. Secondary documentation must describe position or activity and include telephone contact number and accurate dates in month/year format.

Evidence of Work-Related Training

The following pieces of evidence of document learning related to paid or unpaid employment:

  • Reports, proposals or other material written on the job
  • Awards of citations
  • Blueprints, schematics, artwork or other work products
  • Military separation papers
  • Resumes
  • Letters from supervisors or employers
  • Licenses
  • Performance evaluations
  • Membership in professional trade organizations
  • Newspaper, magazine clippings
  • Descriptions of job requirements
  • Description of license or certification requirements

Letters of Verification

Letters from employers, work associates or community leaders who have first-hand knowledge of your involvement and abilities may be needed. The requests for a letter should include:

  • Statement that the purpose of the letter is for verification of learning rather than a recommendation
  • Explanation of nature of working relationship
  • Expectations and level of accomplishments
  • Writer’s qualification for commenting on activities and expertise
  • Information related to the course description
  • Comments directly and separately on each learning experience

Submission of portfolio

Send the portfolio to:

Civilian and Online Student Services,
Columbia College 1001 Rogers St.,
Columbia, MO 65216.

Attach a check or money order for the assessment fee to the portfolio. The assessment fee for each course submitted for evaluation is $75 per credit hour. Anticipate 60 to 90 days for the evaluation process to be completed. Students will be notified of the evaluation outcome and credit, if awarded, will posted to the transcript at no additional charge.