ACE Your Pace to a Higher Education

A language school under Grossmont College, ACE provides an intensive English program for international students.

ACE Your Pace to a Higher Education

Ammie Phan, Staff Writer

The American Collegiate English (ACE) program holds non-credit, pre-college semester sessions on the Grossmont College campus. ACE provides intermediate-level English instruction to international students wishing to improve their English skills to attend a U.S. college or university. Since 1992, ACE has prepared thousands of students for entry into Grossmont College and other prestigious institutions of higher learning.

“We’re owned and operated by Grossmont. Grossmont provides the I-20, the government document, that F-1 visa students need,”  said Sandy Kuntz, an international student specialist for ACE.

According to Kuntz, the students in the program will not receive any credits towards a degree, but they will be prepared for entry into Grossmont. There are no English proficiency requirements to participate in ACE.

Currently, ACE is offering courses for intermediate level English. 

“We’re not a program for beginners or even highly advanced students, we’re in the middle level,” Kuntz emphasized, adding that there are two levels in ACE: Lower intermediate and intermediate.

Students who participate in ACE will study an intensive 14-week academic program for fall and spring sessions or an eight-week program for the summer session. It is a full-time academic program with 20 hours per week; covering academic writing, reading, listening, speaking, vocabulary, American pronunciation and culture.

ACE is considered a language school belonging to Grossmont, making it beneficial to students.

Ammie Phan
International Student Specialist for ACE, Sandy Kuntz holds certificate.

“They get to experience college life even though they are not technically enrolling in college classes,” Kuntz said.

Moreover, ACE students also have access to Grossmont facilities and activities, such as using the computer lab in the Tech Mall and library or joining clubs on campus.

Through this program, it’s easier for international students to get their visas approved to study in the U.S. because ACE is affiliated with a public school in California. Therefore, it will give credit to the students.

The ACE program is under the umbrella of Grossmont College’s accreditation, and it’s also accredited by the CEA -Commission on English Language Program Accreditation.

— Sandy Kuntz

“A parent or an agent in Vietnam or China, or whatever, might feel more reassured that the students are going to a good school knowing that the school has both English program accreditation and college accreditation,” she added.

The mission of ACE is to prepare students for college. After finishing the program, students will receive a certificate of completion and records of their grades. Some might receive a certificate of achievement if they have a GPA higher than 3.0, or good attendance and participation.

“There are also a couple of awards,” Kuntz added.

The students who have the highest GPA at each level will receive a gift certificate to the Grossmont bookstore including $100 for intermediate-level students and $25 for lower-intermediate-level students.

ESL instructor Ann Hubbard teaches grammar and writing at ACE. She said ACE is the first step for students who might not be familiar with our college system yet, “so we familiarize them, that’s part of what we do here.

“Most of them come educated and knowledgeable, they just need to understand a little bit about our system and how that works specifically,” Hubbard added.

Hubbard also pointed out that the difference between ESL students and ACE students is that there are more international students in the ACE program, while the ESL program has a mix of international students and refugees whose levels of English might not be the same as international students.
“That could be one difference,” she said. “It’s very expensive to come here, so a lot of them did have a pretty high level of English in their home country, 99% of the time.”

ACE has its orientation facilitated by Kuntz and Barbara Loveless, Academic Coordinator for ACE. It includes writing and grammar placement tests, textbooks and registration, a mini-tour, immigration information and classroom culture in the U.S.

“We do it in a fun way, so it’s more interactive,” Kuntz said.

Hubbard said at ACE, the teachers are able to give the same level of individualized attention to the students, however, since the enrollment number of international students dropped recently, ACE level-one and level-two students were compressed in the same class. She hopes to have more students coming-in so that the program can separate level one and two students, allowing teachers to better focus on the students with a better approach.

“Here, we get to know them one by one. We know their work, we know their ability, so we know how to advise them for the best success at Grossmont and beyond,” she said.


At ACE, Kuntz is responsible for student services. She works with the students, agents, immigration matters, office upkeep, admissions and marketing. Loveless works more with the curriculum side by hiring teachers, making sure they have the right syllabi and deciding which textbooks should be used.

“What I would like more is for our enrollment to grow enough for us to have an option to offer a beginner level,” Kuntz said. She added that Grossmont and ACE might lose students if they cannot get the required amount of intermediate level placement tests at the ACE orientation.

Moreover, Kuntz also hoped to continue collaborating with high school and ESL students to increase interaction among the students to improve their English level.

The ACE program start date for Fall 2020 is Aug. 12 and will end Nov. 20. The intensive program for Summer 2020 is also scheduled June 4 and will last for eight weeks.