Letter: Degree plans should coexist

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I’ve been trying for months to understand the advantage of this new degree plan, but every supposed advantage dissolves under scrutiny.

Since the plan became public this September, I’ve been told that (1) it was necessary for reaffirmation for SACSCOC accreditation, but we found that SACSCOC wasn’t driving the change.

Then (2), the designation “major” is problematic: either it’s not an accurate name for the degree — “transfer advising plan” is more accurate — or 18 hours are not enough hours for a major — university majors require 30 or more hours — or major implies a terminal degree.

But the term “major” with an AA or AS degree has been commonly understood for a half century as indicating transfer into a bachelor’s major (especially for SAC since we were created in 1925 by UT as a Junior College that would feed UT Austin).

And why does it suggest a terminal degree for employment?

Does a bachelor’s degree with a major indicate a terminal degree? (Say a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy; who can get a job with that?)

Why this new nit-picking with traditional understanding?

I’ve also heard the budgetary reason (3): we want to make sure to get the Success Points since our funding will continue to be dependent on students’ graduating.

I concur with the importance of getting our students to graduate, but traditional degrees would equally satisfy this need.

The current justification (4), one that I heard Dr. Jo Carol Fabianke state a half dozen times at the last board committee meeting is that the new degrees will guarantee that all the 18 hours past the core will count in the major when the student transfers.

But this rationalization also is sketchy.

First of all, what is the problem with some of the courses transferring in as electives? Bachelor’s degrees do have electives that count toward graduation.

Then there is a more serious problem: How can the new generic degrees guarantee more courses transferring into the major?

If, for example, UTSA will only accept 12 hours of sophomore English courses in the major for an English BA, how will the new plan get more courses accepted?

One suggested answer is that the administration will apply more pressure on the local universities to have courses accepted.

Wonderful, but why can’t we put the same pressure for our traditional majors?

We don’t have to change plans to get universities to play nice.

One of the major problems with the proposed plan is that it would limit choice for students’ transferring.

At that board meeting last week, District 2 trustee Denver McClenden brought up this limitation. He asked, “What if a student applies to several universities for admission?”

The student couldn’t prepare for more than one.

But with the current degrees, especially if we can get the universities to play nice and accept our majors, students would be able to have choices and all the courses would count.

The final criticism of the new plan is that it treats the choice as a zero sum game: either the new plan or the old plan.

But that thinking ignores the fact that we have been offering the new plan for decades.

We call it the “associate in transfer degree.”

Why disrupt our system, invite unintended consequences, confuse the students and create controversy when we already have the “new plan” as a component of the old plan?

Why not simply ensure that the transfer degree has higher visibility as we advise students?

I can see no reason why the two kinds of degrees can’t continue to coexist.

Mike Burton, Chair

English Reading & Education


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