Saving money, time are reasons for policy change, Palo Alto president says

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Only three students attended a student conversation session about the policy change regarding core curriculum and degrees at Palo Alto Oct. 7. President Mike Flores explained how the policy change will affect future students and held a Q&A session. Photo by Melissa Luna

Only three students attended a student conversation session about the policy change regarding core curriculum and degrees at Palo Alto Oct. 7. President Mike Flores explained how the policy change will affect future students and held a Q&A session. Photo by Melissa Luna

Next student conversation session is scheduled 4-6 p.m. Oct. 15.

By Melissa Luna

mluna132@student.alamo.edu

With only three students in attendance at a student conversation session on Tuesday, Palo Alto College President Mike Flores discussed the core curriculum and degrees policy change that will take effect fall 2016.

This was the first of four student conversation sessions scheduled for Palo Alto.

Another session was Oct.14, and the final sessions are 4-6 p.m. Oct. 15 and 10 a.m.-noon Oct. 16. All sessions are in the student center annex.

Flores explained that Field of Study degrees approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board help form a direct pathway for students to transfer to a university without having extra credit hours that won’t transfer.

Fields of Study as stipulated by the THECB requires public universities to accept 12 to 15 semester hours of specific courses in some disciplines and count those toward a bachelor’s degree.

“On average, students at Palo Alto graduate with 93 semester hours and you only need 60 to get an associate,” Flores said. “We want to ensure that you take as close to 60 hours as possible.”

One major reason is financial aid.

Pell Grants have an eligibility limit of six school years and once a student starts, the clock starts ticking, he said.

“What we’re hearing from universities, particularly a meeting with Texas A&M (University-San Antonio), is once students transfer to them as juniors, they are concerned because they only have a few more semesters of eligibility left,” Flores said.

Both Alamo Colleges and the universities want to ensure a student has the financial means to obtain a bachelor’s degree, he said.

The time it takes to graduate is also a major factor for the change.

Flores explained being in college longer makes a student spend money.

The change is to encourage students to start and finish college in a timely manner so their return on investment is greater post-graduation.

Criminal justice sophomores Rosie Vasquez-Moncada and Devin Rodriguez said they loved Palo Alto, but were uncertain if they would return to Alamo Colleges because of the policy change that will eliminate majors on degrees.

Rodriguez questioned whether she would send her daughter to a university instead of Alamo Colleges in the future.

Flores assured her Alamo Colleges is a good route to start, but she would have to decide what the best option is for her money.

“Does that apply to a current student who wants to change their major?” Vasquez-Moncada asked.

“No, you’re still under the current catalog,” Flores said. “I would have to double check, but I believe you have six years to finish at Alamo Colleges in order to stay under the current catalog.”

Rodriguez had the same question.

She will graduate with a degree in criminal justice in December but is considering staying at Alamo Colleges to get an associate in psychology.

“(An adviser) told me that after I graduated with my criminal justice degree, I would have to reapply and that would change would affect me,” she said.

Flores said for Rodriguez to leave him her contact information so he could help her with that situation.

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