Capital IDEA Frequent Questions

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Our most frequently asked question:

 

Why is this program free?

As a nonprofit with a mission to get our Central Texas neighbors into great careers, we raise money for your education. Each year we raise enough money to fund our program and cover the tuition and textbooks for over 800 adults, like you. And then we send you to college to get a degree in a high-demand career field. If you're eligible for our program, your tuition and textbooks are already paid for by the generous support of our funders. If you're serious about a career with a future, Apply Today or attend a CareerUp to learn more.


Did you know it costs about $5 million a year to make this program available in our community? The money for your education comes from donors, foundations, local employers, and government agencies, including our three largest investors: the City of Austin, Travis County, and St. David's Foundation. Central Texas is one of the few regions across the nation to have a locally funded program that can invest in the education of our neighbors. As a resident of Central Texas, you have a unique opportunity for a free education. It may sound too good to be true but here's the catch—you have to do the hard work of getting an education and show us you're dedicated to finishing your degree.
Apply Today | CareerUp


Qualifications

  • Whose income do I count? / What if I don’t have any income?
  • Most applicants will provide their own income, the income of their spouse or partner, and any income or benefits their children (under 18) receive. This includes income from your job, child support, benefits or assistance programs, etc. Do not count income for roommates or adult children (18 years or older) who live with you.

    If you do not have any income of your own, you will need to ask the person supporting you to fill out a Financial Support Form (PDF) and provide a utility bill with his/her name on it. This will count as documentation for your proof of income and residency. Note: If you don’t have a printer, you can ask for a copy of the support form when you come into the office for your application steps.

  • What if I’m not a Permanent Resident yet?
  • To qualify for Capital IDEA programs you must be able to prove you have Permanent Resident status. If you are in the process of applying for Permanent Residency, you may begin the Capital IDEA application process but we will not be able to accept you until your Permanent Resident status is confirmed.

  • What if I already have a degree? (USA or other country)
  • Capital IDEA does not sponsor adults who have already earned a college degree. In the case that you can prove your degree is not valid for employment, Capital IDEA can consider your application and, in some cases, make an exception. Contact us before applying to find out if you might qualify for an exception.
    If your degree is from a foreign country, you may have your credits reviewed to determine your credit equivalency. If the college evaluates your credits to be less than an Associate Degree, Capital IDEA may be able to help you get the remaining credits you need.
    Transcript evaluation services are available at ACC Highland Business Center located at 5930 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, Texas 78702, 3rd floor.
    To get a foreign degree translated to English, visit www.aatia.org. Complete this before taking your documents to ACC.
    If you have additional questions, contact us at 512-457-8610 or outreach@capitalidea.org.

  • Can I still apply if I’m a high school senior but not 18?
  • High school seniors still need to meet our qualifications. However, in their last semester of school, they can start applying and complete all steps of the process before they turn 18 years of age. Capital IDEA will not be able to accept applicants until they turn 18 years old. For more information, visit our high school page

  • What if I have student loans in default?
  • To be accepted by Capital IDEA, you must be in good standing with your student loans and in good academic standing with ACC. You will have to establish a payment plan if your loans are in default. Visit MyEDDebt.ed.gov:
    Addressing Your Defaulted Student Loans
    My Options for Going Back to School

  • Can two people from the same family apply?
  • Our policy is not to sponsor two people at the same time who rely on each other for their income like a spouse or domestic partner. Experience has shown us this does not work because it creates a financial hardship for the household. A good financial plan is critical to your success. If you are not financially dependent on one another like siblings or a parent/child with separate income, then yes, two or more people from the same family may apply at the same time.

  • What if I am unsure about my career choice?
  • We want you to finish your degree and move on to a rewarding career. Part of our application process includes going over your interests with a Career Guidance Specialist. This step may help determine the right career field for you, but ultimately it is up to you to make the best choice for yourself. Take the time to research your options and be ready for your commitment interview. You will be asked about your reasons for choosing your career field. Visit our Programs page to explore your career options:
    Healthcare
    Tech & Trades
    Career Expressway

  • What if I am already attending classes at ACC?
  • Current ACC students are eligible to apply to Capital IDEA. If accepted, we will sponsor the remainder of your education. We do not retroactively pay for classes you’ve already taken. In addition, you must be in good standing at ACC.

  • Does Capital IDEA help with English/ESOL classes?
  • Capital IDEA’s Career Expressway program covers tuition for English Level 3 and 4 at Austin Community College. If you’re ready for Level 3 or above, you can start now: Apply Now 

    If you need Basic English, Level 1, or Level 2 English, complete those classes at Austin Community College and apply to Capital IDEA when you’re ready for Level 3. ESOL Academic Program at ACC 

    How do I know what level I’m at?

    Take the ESOL assessment and keep your receipt. Capital IDEA will reimburse you for the testing fee at Step 4 of the applicaiton process. ESOL Assessment Steps at ACC 

  • Can I reapply to Capital IDEA? (former student)
  • If you are a former student of Capital IDEA, and you are ready to return and finish your degree, the answer is ‘YES!’ you can reapply. You will go through the same steps as before, and you must meet the same qualifications. This time, your interview will include questions about your previous attempt at school and how you’ve prepared to return to school this time.

    Get Started by attending a CareerUp ».
    Or consider Applying Online ». You’ll need a computer or smartphone with internet.

  • What if I have a criminal background?
  • You can apply to Capital IDEA even if you have a criminal record as long as you meet our other qualifications. However, you may be ineligible for certain careers that require licensing.

    As part of your application paperwork, you will submit a criminal history from DPS. If the career you choose requires licensing (healthcare and some trades), you will be asked to submit an application to the Licensing Board for your chosen career. If the board finds you eligible for licensing, Capital IDEA can accept you. If you can’t be licensed, then we will not pay for your education in that career, and you may have to consider a different career choice.

    HOW TO GET A BACKGROUND CHECK
    You will request a Texas Personal Review – Full Review (service code 11FT12)
    To get started, be sure to use the Texas DPS approved vendor site: IdentoGO »
    Or for more information about the process of getting your criminal background check, read the Texas DPS Personal Review PDF »

CareerUp

  • What if I don’t see a CareerUp in my county, can I attend a different one?
  • Capital IDEA schedules CareerUps in a county when there is funding to support more students from that county. You may attend any CareerUp that is convenient for you but understand that we will not be able to accept your application until we are recruiting from the county you reside in.

  • Do I have to attend a CareerUp to apply?
  • Yes. Capital IDEA hosts many public CareerUps throughout Central Texas and online. You can find the dates on our website and Facebook page. We also host private CareerUps when we’re invited into classrooms, businesses, housing sites, and partner organizations. If you see a posting for a Capital IDEA presentation at an organization you belong to, show up! That will also count as your CareerUp.

    CareerUp – Sign up»   |   CareerUp Online»
    Invite us to present to your clients! Email Daniel Lopez dlopez@capitalidea.org.

  • When Should I Apply?
  • Capital IDEA has three application periods a year. Use the application calendar below to help you plan when to apply.

    APPLICATION CALENDAR

    JAN | EARLY apply for summer semester (starts in May).
    FEB | Apply for summer semester.
    MAR | Apply for summer semester — recommended apply by date: March 31.
    APR | LATE apply for summer semester. Your start date may get pushed back to fall semester (August).

    MAY | EARLY apply for fall semester (start in August).
    JUN | Apply for fall semester.
    JUL | Apply for fall semester — recommended apply by date: July 31.
    AUG | LATE apply for fall semester. Your start date may get pushed back to spring semester (January).

    SEP | EARLY apply for spring semester (starts in January).
    OCT | Apply for spring semester.
    NOV | Apply for spring semester — recommended apply by date: November 30.
    DEC | LATE apply for spring semester. Your start date may get pushed back to summer semester (May).

  • Do I have to attend another CareerUp?
  • If you attended a CareerUp in the last six months, you do not have to attend a new CareerUp. Move on to Step 2 of the application process by signing up for an assessment date. Don’t forget you’ll need to download, fill out, and turn in your application too. Sign Up for Step 2 »

    If you attended a CareerUp more than six months ago (and didn’t move on to the next step) you’ll need to attend another CareerUp. Sign up for a CareerUp »

    If you’ve already takena an assessment and/or submitted an application, call or email to find out what your next step is: 512-457-8610 outreach@capitalidea.org

Programs

  • How long will I be in Capital IDEA?
  • That depends on your starting point and your career choice, but on average our students complete a program in about 3.5 years. College Prep takes 1 semester, pre-requisites and co-requisites classes can take 1 to 1.5 years, and program classes can also take 1 to 1.5 years to complete.

  • How many classes will I take a semester?
  • To meet the requirement of a fulltime student, you will typically need to take 3 to 4 classes per semester.

  • What is the schedule for the College Prep Academy classes?
  • College Prep students attend class Monday through Friday for twelve weeks. Math is in the morning 8:00 am – 11:00 am. Reading is 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm. For more informaiton, visit College Prep .

  • Can I attend class at night?
  • ACC sets the class schedules and may have some evening or weekend classes, but most classes are during the day. It is unlikely you will be able to take the majority of your coursework at night.

My Application

  • Whose income do I count? / What if I don’t have any income?
  • Most applicants will provide their own income, the income of their spouse or partner, and any income or benefits their children (under 18) receive. This includes income from your job, child support, benefits or assistance programs, etc. Do not count income for roommates or adult children (18 years or older) who live with you.

    If you do not have any income of your own, you will need to ask the person supporting you to fill out a Financial Support Form (PDF) and provide a utility bill with his/her name on it. This will count as documentation for your proof of income and residency. Note: If you don’t have a printer, you can ask for a copy of the support form when you come into the office for your application steps.

  • How do I get a new or replacement social security card?
  • You may be able to request a replacement of your social security card online — see if you qualify Social Security Administration.
    If you don’t qualify to use the online service, or you are requesting for a child, visit the same page as above (Social Security Administration), then scroll down to the section ‘How To Get A New, Replacement Or Corrected Card’.

  • How do I get a new or replacement driver’s license?
  • To get your Texas driver’s license or state ID card visit Texas.gov. You’ll see options to renew, change address, or reinstate a license.

  • Do you look at my parents’ income (for recent high school grads living at home)?
  • No, you will not need to provide any information on your parent’s income. Instead, ask your parent to fill out a Financial Support Form (PDF) and provide a utility bill with his/her name on it. This will count as documentation for your proof of income and residency.

    Note: If you don’t have a printer, you can ask for a copy of the support form when you come into the office for your application steps.

  • What if I can’t find my taxes? / What if I didn’t file taxes?
  • If you’ve lost your copy of your taxes, you can get a transcript of your taxes from the IRS by calling (800)–829–1040. Transcripts will be mailed directly to you in 2-3 weeks.

    If you did not file taxes in the past year, we will have you fill out and sign a Tax Declaration Form (PDF). If you don’t have a printer, you can ask for a copy when you come into the office and fill it out there. We’ll add it to your file.

  • How do I reschedule my assessment?
  • If you are trying to reschedule because your paperwork isn’t done yet, don’t reschedule. Come in and take your assessment. We’ll review what you’ve completed so far and let you know what is missing.

    If you need to reschedule your assessment because you can’t make your appointment, use this link: Make a Change to My Sign Up.

    If you have trouble with the link above, go ahead and sign up for a new date here: Step 2, then email us to let us know you have changed your assessment date: I’ve rescheduled my assessment (email).

  • Why am I being asked for so many documents?
  • It’s true, we do ask for a LOT of documents. Believe it or not, we try to ask only for documents when absolutely necessary. But here’s why we ask for so much information: We get our funding from government agencies, big foundations, and other private donors. To show that we are using the money responsibly and only in the way we’ve said we would, we have to prove each and every applicant is a real person, who really lives in our community, and meets all of our qualifications.

    At least twice a year we go through a rigorous audit to verify we are documenting our program correctly and storing information safely. We document every aspect of our decision to accept a new student because as soon as we’ve done that, we are able to commit thousands of dollars towards their education. And we LOVE paying for our student’s college, and seeing them succeed!

  • How do I use Adobe Scan? / How do I turn my documents into PDFs?
  • We recommend Adobe Scan to our students and applicants because it is FREE, and it can turn your paper documents into PDFs using the camera on your phone. Below is a tutorial video to help you get started. Get the Adobe Scan app

    Note: There are several other apps that can create PDFS, like Dropbox for example, and you are welcome to use any app you trust to securely scan and store your personal information.

    Remember, if you ever struggle with technology (and who doesn’t), just ask us for a low-tech way to keep going. For example, if scanning documents at home isn’t working for you, bring your documents with you to your assessment (Step 2). You can use our copy machine while you’re here. We’ll show you how.

  • Do I have to take the assessment? Even if I'm already in college?
  • The short answer is: yes. Every applicant has to take an assessment. It counts as part of your application.

  • When Should I Apply?
  • Capital IDEA has three application periods a year. Use the application calendar below to help you plan when to apply.

    APPLICATION CALENDAR

    JAN | EARLY apply for summer semester (starts in May).
    FEB | Apply for summer semester.
    MAR | Apply for summer semester — recommended apply by date: March 31.
    APR | LATE apply for summer semester. Your start date may get pushed back to fall semester (August).

    MAY | EARLY apply for fall semester (start in August).
    JUN | Apply for fall semester.
    JUL | Apply for fall semester — recommended apply by date: July 31.
    AUG | LATE apply for fall semester. Your start date may get pushed back to spring semester (January).

    SEP | EARLY apply for spring semester (starts in January).
    OCT | Apply for spring semester.
    NOV | Apply for spring semester — recommended apply by date: November 30.
    DEC | LATE apply for spring semester. Your start date may get pushed back to summer semester (May).

  • What happens if i miss the apply by deadline?
  • If you miss the deadline to apply for a specific semester, don’t worry, your application will be considered for the next semester.

  • Entry ID – What is it for and how do I get one?
  • What is the Entry ID? The Entry ID is a tracking number assigned to new applicants when they start the application process online. You’ll use your Entry ID number when you fill out your application. There will be a field that asks for it. That is the only time you’ll need your Entry ID.

    How do I get an Entry ID? Your Entry ID gets emailed to you as soon as you fill out the New Online Applicant Form. If you’ve already filled out that form, then you can log in to My Dashboard to find your Entry ID there as well.

  • How do I show proof of where I live (residency)?
  • Provide one of the following: lease, mortgage, or utility bill. As long as your (or your spouse’s) name is on the document, any one of these will count as your proof of residency. You will be providing these anyway to document your living expenses.

    What if my name is not on the lease, mortgage, or utility bills?

    — If you are being supported by someone (like parents or relatives, and have no job), ask the person supporting you to fill out the Financial Support Form (PDF) and provide one utility bill showing his/her name. This will count as your documentation for residency and living expenses.

    — If you are renting or sharing expenses with someone (or living with parents but have a job), you will need to provide ALL three items: 1. A verification letter from the person you are living with (see below), 2. One proof document: a utility bill or copy of lease/mortgage, 3. A piece of (any) mail with your name on it showing the home address. These items count toward documenting your living expenses as well.
    Instructions for Letter: The name on the letter must match the name on the proof document (utility bill or lease). The letter can be as simple as: (Name of applicant) lives with me at this address (give address). He/she contributes $____ monthly to household expenses. Full name, signature, address, and phone number.

  • Can I reapply to Capital IDEA? (former student)
  • If you are a former student of Capital IDEA, and you are ready to return and finish your degree, the answer is ‘YES!’ you can reapply. You will go through the same steps as before, and you must meet the same qualifications. This time, your interview will include questions about your previous attempt at school and how you’ve prepared to return to school this time.

    Get Started by attending a CareerUp ».
    Or consider Applying Online ». You’ll need a computer or smartphone with internet.

  • What if I started applying but didn’t finish? Do I start over?
  • If you applied to Capital IDEA more than a year ago, you’ll need to start the process over: Apply »

    If you applied less than a year ago, email the Outreach Team and let them know you’d like to continue the application process. They will review your application and let you know which documents need to be updated and what your next step is. outreach@capitalidea.org

  • What if I have a criminal background?
  • You can apply to Capital IDEA even if you have a criminal record as long as you meet our other qualifications. However, you may be ineligible for certain careers that require licensing.

    As part of your application paperwork, you will submit a criminal history from DPS. If the career you choose requires licensing (healthcare and some trades), you will be asked to submit an application to the Licensing Board for your chosen career. If the board finds you eligible for licensing, Capital IDEA can accept you. If you can’t be licensed, then we will not pay for your education in that career, and you may have to consider a different career choice.

    HOW TO GET A BACKGROUND CHECK
    You will request a Texas Personal Review – Full Review (service code 11FT12)
    To get started, be sure to use the Texas DPS approved vendor site: IdentoGO »
    Or for more information about the process of getting your criminal background check, read the Texas DPS Personal Review PDF »

  • How do I get my college transcript?
  • Transcripts can be requested through the school’s registrar’s office. You can often request your transcript online. Try visiting the college’s website and search for ‘registrar’s office’ or ‘transcript request.’ Some schools require written consent before processing your request and will not offer online services. In that case, try calling or visiting the office in person.
    If your college no longer exists, you will have a more difficult time obtaining transcripts. Start with this information sheet: Guidelines for Obtaining Student Transcripts or Records from Private Institutions (pdf)

  • How do I get copies of my high school diploma or GED certificate?
  • To get a copy of your high school transcript, contact the registrar’s office at the school you graduated from. They should be able to get you a copy of your transcript. If you have difficulty getting your request filled by the school, you can try an on-line service like www.needmytranscriptcom.
    For GED certificate, visit the Texas Certificate/Transcript Search to obtain a printable PDF containing the Certificate of High School Equivalency and test scores for $5. The printable PDF will include a diploma-style certificate suitable for framing and a transcript with test dates and scores. The certificates and verifications must be printed during this transaction, so be sure to use a computer that is connected to a printer.

  • How do I get a new or replacement birth certificate?
  • If you need to replace a birth certificate for yourself or a family member who was born in Texas, you can order replacement birth certificates through the Texas Vital Records Department.

    Order online at www.dshs.texas.gov/vs.
    Order in person at 1100 West 49th Street, Building R, Austin, TX 78756.
    Order by phone 512-776-7111.

    For individuals born outside of Texas, you will need to search for the right department in the state they were born in. For example, type “birth certificates New Mexico department of health,” into a search engine like Google or Bing. Look for websites that end in .gov to ensure you are getting the government agency and not a third party agency which will charge you more for the same service.