Students will only receive one A.A. or A.S. despite number of credit hours.
By M.J. Callahan
Beginning in December, students at this college will graduate with a generic Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree rather than a degree that specifies a major or academic area of concentration, President Robert Vela said Sept. 15 in an interview.
The decision was made in the spring in a meeting of the chancellor, vice chancellors and college presidents, he said.
Additionally, students will no longer be able to receive more than one Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degrees.
“We have gone from majors to concentrations to now basically the push for Associates of Arts, Associates of Science degrees. The advising guides give a pathway that you can specialize in,” Vela said.
He referred to the 2014-15 college catalog, which lists degree plans in various disciplines as “advising guides.” The 2012-13 and 2013-14 catalogs listed them as “concentrations.”
The issue came up in the Sept. 9 College Council meeting in which chairs raised a concern that students would transfer without graduating if they are not required to complete courses in a degree plan.
The center for student information, which compiles statistics, is in the process of compiling a breakdown of degrees and certificates awarded for 2013-14.
The number of students who were awarded multiple degrees is also being compiled.
Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees in major concentrations have required students to complete a college core of 42 to 44 hours and the remaining hours in the academic concentration.
Students have been allowed to receive more than one associate degree by meeting the core requirement once and then requirements for more than one academic concentration.
Fine arts Chair Jeff Hunt said at College Council that students often receive an A.A. in speech and an A.A. in theater.
“This (advising guides) does not lend itself to get two Associates of Arts,” Vela said.
“You can get only one Associate of Arts unless you are going to pursue an Associate of Science or Applied Science,” Vela said.
“We want students to know once they obtain a degree, they need to begin their journey to transfer,” Vela said.
“An A.A., if it’s articulated with another two-plus-two program out of a university, (an agreement district colleges have made with four-year institutions to ensure work at this college fits into a degree plan for a bachelor’s degree), then it’s great because you know exactly what you need to take,” Vela continued.
The generic A.A. or A.S. degree allows an adviser and student to select courses that are aligned with the degree plans of senior institutions “as opposed to a set plan that may or may not apply to that particular institution,” he said.
“There is a lot of pressure right now from the state and even from the national level to complete faster. They want students to get their degree and move on into the workforce. If your intention is to come in and transfer, then our goal is to get you in and out,” Vela said.
Members of College Council were cautioned to avoid using the term “concentrations” when referring to courses in an academic area because it could affect this college’s reaccreditation in which a five-year report is due in fall 2016.
Vela said the term “advising guide” is more appropriate “because it was simply a set of courses that could help you when you transfer to a transfer institution.”
He said the college has never treated the recommended courses in a particular academic area as a program.
“We have treated it as a area that you could focus on to be able to help you when you transfer,” he said.
For a program to prove they are programs for reaffirmation, they need to show they have been assessing their programs, coming up with learning outcomes and improving the outcomes for two years prior to reaccreditation in 2016, he said.
Every time a college is up for reaccreditation, it is a new process and this college has learned from experiences of other colleges, he said.
“We have to ask ourselves, do we truly have programs or do we truly have advising guides or whatever,” he said. “It was determined based on everything we saw, they were never really intended to be programs … (as) defined by SACSCOC (Southern Association of colleges and Schools Commission of Colleges).”
“We are simply making adjustments to ensure we are in full compliance with what our accrediting body expects from us and what we are providing for students, Vela said.
“We will have to get some kind of level of communication before they see their transcripts or their diplomas in December,” Vela said.