Prior Learning Assessment – How to get college credit for your experience

ACC student in 2nd floor student loungeWhen it comes to college, I think we can all agree that we just want our school studies to be over and done with ASAP so that we can move on with our lives and start making an honest living. So, you may be wondering, “Is there a way that I can maybe speed things up a bit?” Maybe you have some experience that could trim some time off of your time in college…if so, wouldn’t you want to know about it??

I’m Allison Lemmertz, the Graduation & Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator here at ACC. While I’m not the ultimate authority in granting you these potential college credit short-cuts, I am certainly here to help get you the information you need to see if your prior learning experiences are worth something!

What is “Prior Learning Assessment (PLA)”?

The formal definition of prior learning assessment, according to the American Council on Education, is “learning gained outside the college classroom in a variety of settings and through formal and non-formal means…”. Here at ACC we recognize 3 main formats of PLA:

  1. Prior learning through examination
  2. Prior learning through industry certification or licensure
  3. Prior learning through portfolio

If you completed any AP coursework in high school, don’t underestimate those! Students in the past have earned up to half of their associate’s degree from AP scores!

Exams that you can take for college credit include: CLEP, DSST, AP, IB, and UExcel, which are standardized tests. Other exams that you can take are done through different ACC departments (based on subject area). These are our challenge exams. We currently offer challenge exams for:

  • Mathematics
  • Health Information Technology
  • Medical Office Technology
  • Graphic Design
  • Computer-Aided Drafting
  • Computer Information Systems
  • Computer Networking

If you’re interested in testing from one of the subject areas listed above, please get in contact with me, and I’ll provide you with the necessary paperwork to get started as well as get you in contact with the appropriate program/department chair.

Industry Certification or Licensure is another key area where you may be eligible for college credit. At ACC, our most recognized industry certifications for credit are:

  • Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certification
  • National Registry of EMT (NREMT) certification
  • AAPC Certified Inpatient Coder (CIC) certification
  • AAPC Certified Professional Coder (CPC) certification
  • AHIMA Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) certification
  • CompTIA A+ certification
  • CompTIA Network +
  • CompTIA Security +
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) Part 1
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing & Switching (CCNA) Part 2

Military training and service also falls under the realm of PLA, so if you have that experience, please have your joint services transcript sent to ACC for transcript evaluation.

How does Prior Learning Assessment work?

Prior learning Assessment is a team effort! As the student, it is up to you to initiate the communication to request college credit from your prior learning experience. You will communicate with your program chair as well as me (Allison Lemmertz- Allison.lemmertz@arapahoe.edu), the Graduation & Prior Learning Assessment Coordinator here at ACC to get the ball rolling.

As with any other college credits, please also keep in mind that we can only bring in college credits that apply to your major or program! So, for instance, if you have certification in Cisco Networking, but you’re enrolled in an English degree, then that certification doesn’t help your progress- sorry.

What kinds of experience can I get credit for?

Generally speaking, your best chance of receiving college credits is fairly limited to the exams and certifications mentioned previously. We do, however, also offer credit for portfolio on occasion, although it is rare. Please just note these are typically on a case-by-case basis, and it is up to the program chair to offer or accept credit by portfolio.

Instances of prior learning assessment via portfolio that I have seen be successful include art, communication, and early childhood education. This isn’t to say that no other portfolios will be considered, so when in doubt, please feel free to ask us!

Is there a cost for Prior Learning Assessment?

Unfortunately, nothing is free, and when it comes to PLA, the same applies. Our fees for PLA vary, depending on the format of PLA as well as the credits. Please see the cost breakdown below for our different formats of PLA.

PLA by Exam PLA by Certification/Licensure PLA by Portfolio
$45 per credit hour $75 (flat rate; credit hour total doesn’t affect fee) $65 per credit hour

How is this different from the Alternative Credit Project?

While prior learning assessment falls under the realm of ‘alternative credit’, the Alternative Credit Project (ACP) is its own beast. The ACP includes a specific pool of courses that ACC will accept, and this project was agreed upon by the American Council on Education (ACE) and grant-supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Get specific information on the alternative credit project.

If you have any questions or want to see if your experience could lead to college credit, I am available to help. Contact me at allison.lemmertz@arapahoe.edu or call 303.797.5630. I’d be happy to discuss the possibility of getting you credit for your experience!

ACC Alumni Spotlight: John Libby

ACC Alum John LibbyIn the fall of 1981, John started out as an 18 year-old ACC student. He was in student council that year and wrote for the school newspaper. He attended school with his mother, who started out with a GED and now holds a Master’s degree. ACC gave a poor kid from Brooklyn access to a better life, which is why he is so passionate about participation in the college and the scholarship programs for students. Eventually, ACC would be the higher education launch point for his wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law.

John values ACC because it gives access to all people. The education he received was from real life business professionals. Eventually, he would go on to have a successful career in Marketing, including becoming Retail Ad Director for The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post and Money Mailer. The training he received at ACC gave him the spring board to change his life and the lives of the numerous people he has trained in business and in the community. “Thank you ACC for the opportunities in my life and the opportunity to give back,” said John.

Additionally, he truly appreciates how ACC supports the community. Not only does it improve the quality of life for its students by giving them a place for affordable high quality training but it also supplies the nurses, accountants, auto mechanics and numerous other professionals that keep our society in Colorado a wonderful place to live. “I may sound like a commercial, but without ACC a huge void would be left in our community,” said John. He wishes we could introduce more students and involve more of the community in the gem of this institution – what it means and can mean.

Besides the valuable education you get at ACC, it is also a place to grow up and fit in. Yes, the Marine Corps Reserves helped John, as did his parents, but it was the bridge that he needed as a first generation college student before the university experience. Community is another huge benefit of ACC. John learned the value of society and ACC gave him the needed experience of giving back through donations as well as volunteer work. “I feel giving back is an important human need, ACC gives that opportunity to give back in a way that will help generations.”

Finally, John commented on how lifelong learning is an important part of experiencing all that life has to offer. He still continues to take 2 classes a year whether it’s Voice, Guitar, Spanish or a variety of other skills because it keeps his mind expanding. To quote Ray Kroc-“When you’re green, your growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.” ACC keeps your mind growing. John is ACC!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Student Access Services at ACC – What it is and how to utilize it

Student Access Services (SAS) at ACC is the office dedicated to providing services for students in need of accommodations so that they can be successful in their education. Our SAS team works with every department on campus to encourage and celebrate accessibility, accountability and self-advocacy.

Services offered by SAS include:

  • Classroom accommodations
  • Test accommodations
  • Specialized orientations for support services
  • Self-advocacy training and ADAAA/Section 504 information
  • Curriculum materials in alternate formats
  • Referrals for resources such as tutoring, career services or other support services as necessary

Accommodations that SAS provides include:

  • Alternative text format
    • Electronic: PDF or Kurzweil
    • Braille, DAISY
  • Interpreting / Captioning
    • Sign Language
    • Real Time Captioning
  • Ergonomic Furniture
    • Adjustable Table
    • Ergonomic Seating
    • Ergonomic Keyboard, Mouse
  • Note Taker

*You are encouraged to request these accommodations at least 3-4 weeks before your first day of class.

Are you eligible for services?

If you are a registered ACC student with a disability, you qualify for accommodations. This can be a permanent condition or temporary (like breaking your arm and needing help with notes).

Be sure to follow our checklist to make sure you are on track with the steps you need to become an ACC student. It is important to complete as many of these steps as possible prior to meeting with a SAS specialist.

You’ll need to take a few additional steps to set up your accommodations, remembering to begin this process at least 4 weeks before the beginning of classes, if possible.  If you can’t gather your documentation or complete your intake form ahead of time, please come in anyway.

  1. Schedule an appointment with a SAS specialist. You can make your appointment by stopping by room M2720 at the Littleton campus, calling 303.797.5730 or requesting an appointment online. It can take up to a week to set-up your appointment, so plan accordingly.
  2. Fill out an Intake Form (PDF or online) before your scheduled appointment. This will give us an idea of what types of accommodations you need and what services we can provide to make your time at ACC as successful as possible.
  3. Bring or send recent documentation of a disability to SAS prior to your intake appointment.
  4. Meet with your SAS specialist and obtain an Accommodation Letter.
  5. Meet with your instructors and give them a copy of your Accommodation Letter.

It is important that you request your accommodations before classes start. This will get you off to the best possible start and ensure your success in your classes. Setting up accommodations can take some time and you don’t want to get behind.

Leia requests Accommodations video

You also need to be sure to set up testing accommodations with your instructor and the ACC Testing Center at least 7 days ahead of each test. Our instructors and Testing Center staff want to work with you to give you the best environment for testing for you, but they need time to make the necessary testing arrangements.

Chewy at the Testing Center

A disability doesn’t need to keep you from achieving your goals. Let our SAS specialists help you create an atmosphere where it is easier for you to learn and complete your studies. Learn how to advocate for yourself and your needs so you can get the help you need to accomplish your goals and Move Mountains!

Our SAS specialists are here to help. Contact them today in M2720 at the Littleton campus, email sas@arapahoe.edu or call 303.797.5730 (voice/TTY).

Financial Aid – Types of Aid and Deadlines

2017 ACC scholarship luncheon - recipients and staffDo you need help paying for college? Did you know that there in financial aid available from the government and from ACC that can help you with those college costs, such as: tuition and fees, books, supplies, and living expenses?

Your first step to getting funding for college is to apply for financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Make sure you have this completed by March 1, 2018 to get priority on aid and scholarships!

If you aren’t sure what this is or how to apply, take advantage of our free FAFSA labs every Monday from 1-6pm at our Littleton campus. These are open to anyone (not just ACC students). Our experts will help walk you through the process of applying for financial aid and make it a little less intimidating.

You’ll need a few items to be able to complete it:

  • Driver’s license number
  • Social Security Number or Alien Registration Number
  • Federal tax returns from 2016
  • W-2s and any other records of money earned such as child support received, interest income, and veterans non-education benefits
  • Bank statements and records of investments such as stocks, bonds, 529 plans, and investment homes
  • Records of untaxed income (workers compensation and disability benefits)
  • FSA ID if you have already created one
  • If you are a dependent, you’ll need your parents’ information.

There a several different types of aid you could be awarded:

  • Grants – this includes both federal and state grants. These are gifts and do not need to be repaid.
  • Scholarships – this type of aid comes from donors and companies hoping to help you achieve your goals. Scholarships don’t have to be repaid either! Apply for numerous ACC scholarships and private scholarships that you may qualify for. It takes some research, but it will be wealth worth the extra money to help you pay for school. ACC priority deadline for scholarships is March 1!
  • Student Loans – loans can help you pay for college, but don’t forget they have to be paid back, plus interest.
  • Work Study – work study gives you the chance to work on-campus for up to 20 hours a week. Build your resume and earn money for school at the same time.
  • Veteran’s Benefits – ACC is a certified Military Friendly School and will work with you to get the benefits you have earned from your time in the military.

Why Should You Apply for Financial Aid?

While not everyone qualifies for grant aid, many people do receive an award of some kind to help them pay for their college expenses. Whether you think you will qualify or not, it is a great idea to spend the hour or less it takes to complete your FAFSA.

Completing your FAFSA is also the first step to many scholarship applications. Many scholarships require a FAFSA. This includes many ACC scholarships. Don’t worry, even if you don’t qualify for grant aid, you may still qualify for scholarships. There is a wide variety of options available based on need, area of interest, ability, past school performance, essay-writing and more. Don’t count yourself out before you try.

You can apply for many of our ACC scholarships with just one application. Some may require additional information or essays, but getting started is easy with our online application. In general, you will only receive one scholarship from our ACC scholarships, so review them thoroughly and see what might be right for you. And if you have questions, talk to our Financial Aid Office and they can help you through the process.

That being said, it is important for you to research what other scholarships are out there. We offer a list of private scholarships as well as reputable resources for finding more that may better suit your situation and offer you additional funding.

Do not forget to take advantage of the Essay Writing Workshop on February 19 and 20 in the Library Learning Commons on the Littleton Campus.

Ready to Move Mountains?

Complete your FAFSA and ACC scholarship application by March 1! If you get overwhelmed or confused, our Financial Aid Advisors are here to help you! Contact them at 303.797.5661, finaid@arapahoe.edu or stop by M2330 at the ACC Littleton campus. Get the most money for your education by turning everything in for the priority deadline. You can do this and we’re here to help!

ACC Littleton Campus – Remodel Update – February 2018

We’re happy to tell you that our Littleton campus 3rd floor remodel is nearly complete! We have newly remodeled science labs, restrooms and student space. If you don’t remember what it looked like before, take a look.

While we have a couple of rooms left to complete, the majority of the construction is finished and our students are already utilizing these new spaces for their classes, labs and study time.

ACC Littleton 3rd Floor Science Labs

chemical storage biology classroom/lab

ACC anatomy & physiology students in class with faculty member Rachel Willard ACC anatomy & physiology students in class with faculty member Rachel Willard ACC anatomy & physiology students in class with faculty member Rachel Willard ACC cadaver lab ACC cadaver lab ACC Science classroom Another ACC science classroom ACC science lab/classroom ACC classroom/lab ACC lab equipment storage ACC biology lab ACC lab with microscopes ACC students in lab with faculty member Jenai Rutledge

ACC Littleton 3rd Floor Student Lounge

ACC 3rd floor student lounge ACC 3rd floor student loungeWe appreciate your continued patience as we make enhancements to our educational and student spaces to help you Move Mountains in your classes and toward your goals!

ACC Student Spotlight: Macey Smith

ACC student Macey SmithMacey is getting an associate degree and plans to transfer to a 4-year university for Music Recording Arts. She took classes at the ACC Castle Rock campus and really appreciated the one-on-one attention when talking with the front desk staff. She felt valued and welcomed how efficient everyone and everything was at the Castle Rock campus. “I don’t feel like one student in a million. They treat me like a human, where my needs are important and they value my needs. I am not just a number,” said Macey.

She never expected the overwhelming support she received at ACC. “Coming here I didn’t expect to have so many people to surround me and mentor me to be a better student, how to be a successful student and future professional. They treat me like family,” she reflected. Macey feels it has been a blessing to have that support, like a real community. Macey is ACC.

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Hot Topic Forum: Free Speech

Hot Topics logoGiven the charged political atmosphere we are living in, I’d like to invite you to a civil discussion of one of our most cherished rights as Americans – freedom of speech. It seems today that this subject sparks considerable confusion and debate.

Student Life and the Political Science department are sponsoring the semester’s first Hot Topic Forum next week on Wednesday January 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Library.

Panelists will include Elijah Dicks, ACC History faculty and Ted Belteau, Educator and member of the ACLU.

Hope to see you there…

If you have a topic you would like us to discuss during a Hot Topic Forum, let me know. Email mary.carr@arapahoe.edu.

by Mary Carr, ACC Department Chair – Anthropology, Economics, Political Science & Sociology

ACC Community Spotlight: Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB)

Colorado Center for the Blind building signFor several years, ACC and the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) have been collaborating on Shared Visions, an accessible art exhibit. This last summer the two organizations also joined forces on an exhibit held at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The dynamics between the ACC and CCB classes seems to inspire everyone, the students, teachers, and the public!

CCB students at potter's wheels at ACCCCB students dissecting sharks at ACCAnn Cunningham, an art teacher at CCB, said that the best thing about being a part of the ACC community were the quality of our instructors. “Nathan (Abels) and Katie (Caron) are both excellent artist as well as amazing teachers. Truly, I am very impressed with both of them,” said Ann.

The CCB curriculum is expanding because of the collaboration. The Center now has new methods to explore because of the newly acquired skills of their teachers. “I also know that when I need to ask questions Katie and Nathan will be there with answers. ACC’s generous donation of a pottery wheel will enable us to continue building our skills in our pottery program,” said Ann, of the graciously fostered partnership.

CCB logoThe Colorado Center for the Blind would certainly recommend ACC to others! CCB is completely impressed with the openness and sense of adventure that ACC instructors bring to the experience. In fact, some of the teachers would love to take classes here, moving beyond just a partnership but a true relationship with ACC. The Colorado Center for the Blind and ACC Move Mountains together!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Why I Attend ACC and Joined Phi Theta Kappa

Camila Monroe, ACC studentNowadays, we hear everywhere about the importance of diversity; community colleges are the most diverse academic population anyone will be able to find. A quick walk around our school will illustrate that: we find overachieving high schoolers, coming back students, young adults pursuing a new career, international students, Hispanics, people of color, LGBTQ activists, Republicans and Democrats, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers…and the list goes on. The differences in backgrounds, race, gender, political affiliation and age make community colleges the environment that we would like to see along the streets. It’s an environment where all of that diversity comes together to learn. Of course big universities might also offer that variety, but in community colleges that is a sure thing; one of the reasons is that nearly every person can afford that kind of education.

Which brings me to another point: we are at school because we want to – not because our parents do. We sign up for classes because we truly expect to learn, and to apply that obtained knowledge as soon as possible, whether it is towards a job or higher levels of education. We are goal-oriented students, and we will persevere in the journey towards that goal.

I joined PTK to become the VP of Honors in Action (HiA), a position that combined two things that I have a passion for: research and community service. I started my project that summer, and I have learned and grew so much ever since. I have had experiences with community service and journalism back in my home country of Brazil, doing something similar in a completely different language and culture was beyond challenging. But I succeeded, and as a consequence I started to engage more and more every day.

The success of that project made me thirsty for more; more friends than those amazing ones I had met at PTK, more outreach of my ideas on how we could improve our community, more ways to be part of my school beyond showing up and getting good grades. After my award-winning HiA, I joined many clubs, became a chemistry, biology and economics tutor at ACC, joined the Colorado Space Grant Program, and, finally, became president of student government and of our PTK chapter. I believe PTK is not only for those who were born ready, who had all resources available; it is also an honor society for those who overcame obstacles, who do not ignore, but recognize and even celebrate their imperfections. Those are the hard-working students, who understand that a leader is not born, but built, slowly, as a consequence of the never-ending process of bettering ourselves.

by Camila Monroe

ACC Student Spotlight: Leah Porter

ACC Student Leah PorterAt ACC, Leah received lots of support from administrators, faculty, and staff. When she realized she want more than just an associate degree, she reached out to several ACC employees and was offered help in fulfilling her goals and achieving her dreams.

Leah loves that ACC is small and that everybody is very nice. She also loves that ACC has a Dean of Students, Vice Presidents, and the President of the college walking around communicating with students. “Our school doesn’t preach inclusivity, we practice it,” said Leah. ACC has become her new family.

The three most valuable benefits Leah have received from ACC are:

  • Education
  • Confidence
  • Leadership skills

Leah tells people that if you want success, there are lots of resources available to help you find your success within the school or on a national level. She also said, “ACC changed my life. At ACC, I have achieved what I thought was impossible. I received awards from ACC and the national level.” She is the honoree in the PTK’s All Colorado Team, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar, Guistwhite Scholar, and ACC’s Rising Star. ACC is proud to have Leah as part of the family.

She graduated in May 2017 and is transferring to CU Denver for her Bachelor’s in Business Management. Her new goal is to pursue a Master’s Degree in Higher Education to inspire others the way she has been inspired. “My experience at ACC is beyond wonderful,” said Leah. She will continue to Move Mountains!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager