Alamo Colleges credentials still important, chancellor says.
By Wally Perez
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree, rather than just receiving an associate degree or transferring, is another area of focus at the Alamo Colleges moving forward, Chancellor Bruce Leslie said.
Leslie discussed his vision during district convocation Aug. 15, which involved not just shipping students out, but assuring they’re prepared to complete a baccalaureate at the transfer institution.
“I’m trying to change our thinking on this,” Leslie said in a phone interview Aug. 31. “We’ve always looked at transferring as something that we want to achieve, but after transferring, we tend to forget about them.”
Leslie said students who achieve a successful transfer to a university might be forgotten because they are no longer the college’s students, and therefore, no longer the college’s responsibility.
“To be honest, we haven’t really cared about how successful they are once they’ve transferred in the past,” Leslie said.
Leslie said it’s not that transferring isn’t important — in fact, increasing the percentage of students who successfully transfer is one of the Alamo Colleges’ goals.
Leslie said the main idea is to change the thought process a little bit — it’s not just the transfer; it’s the baccalaureate completion.
The transfer may have been the focus for administrators, but faculty don’t need to change their thinking.
Although transferring is a goal, history Professor Mike Settles said the major goal has always been making sure students are successful after they leave the Alamo Colleges.
Settles said faculty should be concerned with the students while they’re here and after they leave, not forget them once they’re gone.
“Our purpose is to prepare these students to be successful once they leave our classes, successful in life and successful in the academic levels and challenges beyond here,” Settles said in an interview Sept. 7.
Settles said with productive grade rates as another area of focus for faculty, he believes administration’s goal of graduating more students is actually hurting them after they leave.
“We’re pressured to pass people whether they learn anything or not,” Settles said. “You can put a nice high grade on their transcript and a smile on their face while sending them on to the next level, but if they can’t compete there then you’ve done them no favors whatsoever; you’ve just set them up for failure.”
Settles said he wants to see his students achieve good grades, but they must earn them.
Other than preparedness, Leslie said there are other issues that cause students who transfer not to be successful.
Students may take too many hours at the community college level and some of the courses may not transfer, which equals time and money lost, Leslie said.
“In some cases, students may lose their Pell Grant funding due to this,” Leslie said.
There is only so much money in the Pell Grant that students can have before turning to loans if necessary, Leslie said.
Many students don’t know about the three-peat rule, which forces students to pay out-of-state tuition for classes on the third try, Leslie said.
These reasons, among other fiscal-related issues, may create obstacles for students that make the path to a bachelor’s degree more difficult or halt their progress altogether.
Leslie said, the Alamo Colleges need to take the advice and message it gives to high schools that funnel into the colleges.
“We need to produce students who are college- ready, meaning they’re capable of completing college, not just coming here,” Leslie said. “We need to take responsibility, as we’re asking the high schools to take, in making sure our students are ready and prepared to complete and receive a bachelor’s.”
Ruth Dalrymple, associate vice chancellor for academic partnerships and initiatives, said the focus has been and continues to be increasing the number of students who graduate from the Alamo Colleges.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen our graduation numbers improve,” Dalrymple said.
Although a focus may be a student achieving a bachelor’s degree, Dalrymple said goals still include students obtaining an associate degree or similar credential at Alamo Colleges.
“We want to make sure students leave us with courses that will count toward their university degree plans as they work for that bachelor’s,” Dalrymple said.
Dalrymple said sometimes students hear their courses will transfer, but don’t hear that those courses may not count toward their bachelor’s degree program.
For students who just want an associate degree, Leslie said the immediate goal may not be a bachelor’s, but the likelihood at some point that a student will pursue one is very high and very real.
Leslie said a student might go into the field of aerospace engineering through the Alamo Academies program and go on to work for Lockheed Martin; then they may say, “We want to hire you, but you’re going to need a bachelor’s.”
“We need to prepare students for even the possibility of moving on for a bachelor’s, but if they’re not interested then that’s fine, there’s no problem with that.”
Leslie said in some cases today a lot of careers are paying more to students with an associate degree than a bachelor’s degree.