Staff Contact:

Andrea J. Burney, APR

Director of  Public Relations



DANVILLE, VA, March 23, 2015 – Higher education does not always mean sitting in a classroom listening to an instructor and receiving a grade at the end of the semester. Learning in a style that suits you best, on your own timetable, while receiving the financial aid you need to pay your tuition, will be possible with Danville Community College’s innovative approaches to higher education.

DCC will join a select number of colleges nationwide in redefining higher education by participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Experimental Sites Initiative. The College will participate in the following experiments:
• Prior Learning Assessments
• Competency-Based Education
• Limited Direct Assessment

DCC will be one of 49 colleges participating in the prior learning assessments initiative, 41 in competency-based education and 34 in limited direct assessment. The Experimental Sites Initiative will test-drive new Federal Student Aid practices and academic program designs with the aim of providing students more efficient and flexible paths to academic success. The Federal Student Aid Office manages student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These programs provide grants, loans, and work-study funds to students attending college.

“Participating in this Experimental Sites Initiative gives us an opportunity to explore revolutionary approaches in higher education,? said DCC President Dr. Bruce Scism. “By removing obstacles to student success, such as time and cost-based restrictions, we can help more students achieve their educational goals.?

Students enrolling in one of DCC’s workforce-geared programs such as Precision Machining Technology, Welding Technology or Information Systems Technology, for instance, will be able to get the skills they need to enter the job market as a valuable employee. Competency-based education is tied to real world skills, industry certifications that lead to employment, and gives students the option of completing a program more quickly, if they are willing to make the time investment.

For example, a student could come to school Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. like a full-time job. Once they master a certain skill set, such as metal arc welding, they move on to the next competency level. No more waiting for a semester or a year for a course to be offered, or coming to school only on certain days and times when a class is scheduled. The waiting time for financial aid payments will be shortened, as well. Students will receive financial aid as they successfully demonstrate each competency and progress through their program.

“You can get your degree, diploma or career studies certificate at your own pace, and we are going to formalize a process to give you credit for work experience on the job,? Scism said.

Once DCC implements the prior learning assessments experiment, a student’s cost of attendance can include expenses the student incurred for prior learning assessments, such as test fees. In addition, a limited number of credit hours may be applied to a student’s Federal Pell Grant status for efforts the student made to prepare for prior learning assessment(s). A student may build a portfolio to demonstrate competencies in preparation for CLEP (College Level Examination Program) exams, which would count toward the student’s Pell Grant status.

The limited direct assessment experiment will allow DCC to provide Federal Student Aid to students enrolled in a program that uses a direct assessment method to measure student progress. In developmental math, students may be able to complete online assessments in the form of homework problems, quizzes, unit tests and final assessments. Upon successful completion of the final assessment, the student finishes that module and moves on the next.

Opportunities for DCC students will be plentiful as the College implements the three academic experiments. Students will be able to earn nationally-recognized industry certifications through the American Welding Society and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) by demonstrating competencies. Or they will have the option of earning certifications in Information Technology, such as CompTIA Security+ and Cisco CCENT (Certified Entry Networking Technician) upon successful completion of examinations.

Students will have the chance to continue their education at a steady pace as they work full-time or speed through competencies and earn certificates in a matter of months, all the while increasing their knowledge and earning potential. For example, Precision Machining Technology and Information Systems Technology are two DCC programs offered that can lead to lucrative careers. Machinists earn an average annual salary of $41,020 per year, while Computer Support Specialists earn $48,900 annually, and Network and Computer Systems Administrators earn on average $72,560 annually, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For more information about DCC and the Experimental Sites Initiative, contact Dr. Christopher C. Ezell, Vice President of Academic and Student Services, at 434.797.8410 or click here.


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