CPL Frequently Asked Questions

CPL FAQs for Students

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is college credit awarded for validated college-level skills and knowledge gained outside of a college classroom. Currently, credit may be earned through External Exams: AP, IB, and CLEP, or Credit by Exam. 

CPL can save you time and money on your educational path.

Students who satisfactorily pass an authorized assessment. Currently, authorized assessments may include the evaluation of approved external standardized examinations (AP, IB, CLEP, and DLPT) and Credit by Exam.

Each CPL-eligible course will have different options for assessing your prior learning; currently, credit may be earned through External Exams: AP, IB, and CLEP, or Credit by Exam. Talk with an academic counselor about your prior learning and what works best for your situation.

Military Credit: Upon presentation of separation or discharge papers, qualifying veterans are exempted from the Physical Education requirement for the AA/AS degree and are granted six units of elective credit toward the AA/AS degree. An approved DD-214 may be used to fulfill 3 units of the CSU GE-Breadth Area E requirement. Additionally, qualifying veterans who have Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) scores, are eligible for college credit. Talk with your veteran's counselor about your prior learning and what works best for your situation.

Counseling Appointments: Canada College, College of San Mateo, Skyline College

Credit earned from prior learning may be applied toward requirements for SMCCCD certificates, associate degrees, local general education requirements, Associate Degrees for Transfer to CSU campuses, and CSU GE-Breadth and IGETC (CSU only) requirements. UC campuses and many private institutions do not accept CPL applied before transfer.

CSU – Yes! CPL can be applied to Associate Degrees for Transfer, CSU GE-Breadth, or IGETC (CSU only) and it will transfer to all California State University campuses; however, before you petition for CPL, it’s important to understand the individual CSU campus requirements, where you plan to transfer.

If you’re interested in petitioning for CPL and plan to transfer to a four-year institution, we recommend that you contact those prospective institutions directly to ask what forms of CPL are accepted as transfer credit, an academic or veteran's counselor here can help guide you in the process.

UC – UC campuses and many private institutions do not accept CPL applied before transfer; however, some may award CPL based on military transcripts, and we recommend contacting those prospective institutions directly to ask what forms of CPL are accepted as transfer credit.

If you have questions about transferring CPL, please contact an academic or veteran's counselor. Counseling Appointments: Canada College, College of San Mateo, Skyline College

CPL FAQs for Faculty & Staff

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is college credit awarded for validated college-level skills and knowledge gained outside of a college classroom.

Research suggests that CPL benefits students and colleges by increasing completion and closing achievement gaps. In California, this means CPL can help the system achieve the goals outlined in the Vision for Success and increase college funding through improving measures on the Student-Centered Funding Formula metrics.

Source: CAEL Fueling the Race for Postsecondary Success

There is no cost associated with CPL assessment, including Credit by Exam.

Currently, SMCCCD awards CPL using the following assessment methods: External Exams: AP, IB, CLEP, Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT), and Credit by Exam

In the future, the types of prior learning for which we can award credit will expand. Currently, a district-level workgroup is collaborating to design a system that will allow us to award credit for non-collegiate instruction including military training and industry-recognized credentials. The availability of these options for students is still to be determined, check back for updates in late spring 2023.

CSU – Yes! CPL can be applied to Associate Degrees for Transfer and CSU GE-Breadth or IGETC (CSU only), it will transfer to all California State University campuses ( CalState CPL policy EO 1036), however, before a student petitions for CPL, it is important to review the policies for individual CSU campus requirements. Students who wish to petition for CPL and plan to transfer should contact an academic or veteran's counselor.

UC – The University of California accepts some External Exam credit from official transcripts; however, they do not accept most forms of CPL for lower-division transfer courses. Consult the UC Statement of Transfer Credit Practices for more information about CPL and transfer.

Please note: If a student plans to attend a private institution, before applying CPL to transfer requirements, we recommend consulting its policies on accepting credit for prior learning for “pass-along” credit.

Counseling Appointments: Canada College, College of San Mateo, Skyline College

On September 16, 2019, the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges approved a revision to Title 5, Section 55050 that redesigns how students at California Community Colleges receive credit for prior learning. The new regulation aims to make the process more consistent and equitable for students who come to community colleges with college-level skills and knowledge acquired in a variety of non-classroom settings. 

To learn more about Credit for Prior Learning in our district, please consult SMCCCD BP 6.18 Credit for Prior Learning    

Thanks for your interest in making your course(s) CPL eligible! This is an opportunity to help students earn credit for the knowledge and skills they have gained through experiences such as military training, industry training, state/federal government training, volunteer and civic activities, apprenticeships, internships, work-based learning, or other industry-based experiential learning. Take a deeper dive into the information and resources here on the website to familiarize yourself with CPL in our district. If you're interested in bringing CPL to your program, feel free to get in touch at cpl@smccd.edu.