New catalog shirks majors in favor of associate of arts degree

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Alamo Institutes and Alamo Advise are introduced in the 2016-17 bulletin.

By R. Eguia

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Students and faculty tried to fight it, but it’s finally here. Pre-majors or fields of study will be offered in lieu of majors for associate of arts and associate of science degrees at all Alamo Colleges in the 2016-17 course catalog.

Thirteen associate of arts degrees have been combined into one associate of arts degree for students beginning in 2016-17. Eight associate of arts field of study degrees have expanded to 10.

Field of study A.A. degrees are prescribed course combinations in a discipline that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board requires senior institutions to accept and count toward a degree.

Field of study options in the new catalog are business; computer science; criminal justice; journalism; Mexican-American studies; music; Radio-Television-Broadcasting; speech communications; teaching- Early childhood – grade 6, grade 4-8, Early Childhood- grade 12 special education; and teaching grade 7-12 and other Early childhood-12.

Fields of study in Mexican-American studies and computer science are new.

The catalog does not yet include an associate of science degree. The 2015-16 catalog lists 10 associate of science degrees.

Ruth Dalrymple, associate vice chancellor for academic partnerships and initiatives, said the associate in science degree will be posted after deliberation from the College Curriculum Council. Dalrymple is also the chair of the Cross College Curriculum Council that is reviewing the requirements for the associate of science degree.

The number of associate degrees in applied science decreased from 40 to 38, and students still can select one of those as a major. The Emergency Management Administration and Homeland Security, A.A.S.; Fire and Arson Investigation, A.A.S.; and Fire Science, A.A.S. are not available for students entering in the fall. A Fire Service Leadership, A.A.S., degree has been added.

Degrees in applied science are terminal and distinct from degrees in arts or science because they are designed for students seeking employment immediately upon graduation.

The catalog was published online late Wednesday after days of editing from the academic success division at district to align with the new Alamo Advise and Alamo Institute models approved by the board last year.

Dr. Jo Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor for academic success, said the team had to take the language concerning majors out of the catalog.

She said the course catalogs affect new students who are subject to the new guidelines. Students reserve the right to adhere to the standards of the course catalog in effect when they entered an Alamo College up to five years ago.

So there still will be students graduating with majors if they began before the 2016-17 catalogs.

The catalog for this college and archived catalogs from past semesters can be accessed at http://mysaccatalog.alamo.edu .

This change in associate of arts degree language was approved in October by the board of trustees.

“Students earning a transfer degree under catalog requirements beginning with the 2016-17 academic year will have Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, or Associate of Arts in Teaching degree posted on their publically released academic records. The Field-of-Study curricula, a the coordinating board approved sequence of courses that provide a statewide guarantee of transfer to any public college or university in Texas and apply toward the relevant degree,” outlined in the minute order trustees approved in October

The decision corresponds with the shift to Alamo Advise and Alamo Institutes, which officially begins in this catalog.

Melissa Henderson, deputy director of policy for Educate Texas, said the Alamo Institute model reflects a recent national trend toward meta-majors.

Henderson leads the policy advocacy team for Educate Texas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening public and higher education systems. She said the new model is an innovative approach that few college systems in Texas have taken on, but the approach has been trending across the country for the last five years.

One college system that has championed this model is Valencia College in Florida. This district has consistently adopted models from Valencia, most recently the faculty decision-making model. Valencia has received many academic awards and won the 2011 Aspen prize for community college excellence.

Meta-majors are described by Valencia College as “collections of academic majors that have related courses.”

“Meta-majors are cluster groups of majors that fit within a career area. There are eight meta-majors used by colleges in the state of Florida. Within each meta-major are degrees and certificates that have related courses. The intent of selecting a meta-major is to help students choose a major and degree based on their interests, knowledge, skills and abilities. Selecting a meta-major will also help students select classes that relate to a specific degree.” Valencia College meta- majors page https://valenciacollege.edu/academic-affairs/new-student-experience/meta-majors.cfm.

Valencia’s eight designated clusters are not so different from Alamo Institute’s six pathways: creative and communication arts, business and entrepreneurship, health and biosciences, advanced manufacturing and logistics, public service and science and technology.

Valencia offers all of the six paths this district does in addition to Education and Social and Behavioral Sciences and Human Services.

Christa Emig, director of curriculum coordination and transfer articulation, said there are a lot of changes to curriculum every year, but the section of the catalog that required the most amount of work is the advising guides, which include navigation of the Alamo Institutes.

Emig said the academic success team will continue to add changes to the advising guides as they are still being formulated once the catalog is published.

The advising guides are similar to articulation agreements because they green light courses that will transfer to specific colleges. Those guides will be published as they are confirmed by each individual institution.

The state says that the course catalog is the formal agreement between the colleges and the student, which puts pressure on the academic success division to make sure it’s correct and accurate, Fabianke said.

The academic success team cleaned up language in the catalog associated with majors and clarified the language for new changes in advising, Early Alert and the common introductions from each college.

Fabianke says that these changes are made every year and require verification from each college, which makes the process longer.

Emig said academic guidelines are unique to each articulation agreement between the Alamo Colleges and the seven major local four year institutions: University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, University of the Incarnate Word, St. Mary’s University, Our Lady of the Lake and Texas State University.

Fabianke said the catalog is required to include substitutions to classes that were in the catalog five years ago but are no longer offered.

The Academic Course Guide Manual, produced by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which lists the courses for which the state will reimburse community colleges, has swelled in the last 20 years, she said.

Now as community colleges try to align with four year-institutions, the list of courses available to community colleges is beginning to be simplified, she said.

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