New programs, student fee passed by board of trustees

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Advising guides will be introduced no later than May.

By Zachary-Taylor Wright

A $1 per semester study-abroad fee, two new programs at Palo Alto College and advising guidelines were approved at the board of trustees regular meeting Dec. 13 in Killen Center.

The new fee charged to all students will fund scholarships for students who study abroad.

During the regular board meeting Dec. 13, Carol Fimmen, director of international studies, gave examples of benefits of international travel.

District 9 trustee James Rindfuss asked if this was once proposed to the district’s various student government associations and rejected.

Chancellor Bruce Leslie said the proposed student fee had been voted down by the student government associations at the colleges, but this policy did not require a student vote and could be implemented solely with board approval.

District 2 trustee Denver McClendon expressed concern the application deposit of $200 may be a barrier for students prior to receiving assistance from the student fee.

Fimmen said the deposit is intended to ensure a student’s commitment to studying abroad and may be deferred to allow a student the time to gather the money.

Fimmen also said the funds allotted by the student fee could be used to alleviate the financial burden of students who cannot afford the $200 fee.

Fimmen estimated funds collected from the fee will provide $1,000 for study-abroad costs, which include housing, course enrollment and food services.

The board passed the $1 student fee unanimously Dec. 13, and it will be implemented in 2017-18.

Two new associate of applied science degrees in healthcare administration and brewing and operations management were approved by the board Dec. 13.

The two programs will result in associate degrees that can be transferred to Texas A&M University-San Antonio or Texas State University to earn a bachelor of applied arts and science degree.

During an Alamo Institutes update in the chancellor’s report, Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, said her department oversaw the creation of 440 sequenced advising guides she expects to be implemented by May.

The guides were established to assist in the advising of students as they follow the Alamo Institutes education model — a series of academic pathways that align with four-year college degrees.

Fabianke said these guides have not been issued to advisers yet, but she expects them to be posted online as they are completed between now and May.

District 1 trustee Joe Alderete questioned Fabianke on how the board can receive student feedback on these new advising guides and their experience with advising under the new Alamo Institutes.

Adelina Silva, vice chancellor of student success, said field tests are always conducted before rolling out new material or initiatives concerning students’ success.

Silva said there will be student focus groups and a student survey issued prior to the implementation of the advising guides in May.

“The student lens is really what we’re looking for,” Silva said.

District 8 trustee Clint Kingsbery said these “guided pathways” could help avoid the major problems associated with entering higher education programs, such as taking unnecessary courses and transferability of courses.

District 6 trustee Gene Sprague said national accreditation agencies are looking to the Alamo Colleges for a student success initiative as an example to follow.

“Accreditation agencies are under a lot of pressure from the nation to zero in on effective methods of student success,” Sprague said. “It might be interesting to know that they are, while they gave us a warning on some issues, that at the same time we are among the leaders in the nation for student success.”

During the 4 Disciplines of Execution and Wildly Important Goal presentation of the chancellor’s report, Dustyn Taylor, college services coordinator at Northwest Vista College, said the resources management team has reduced their findings of needed improvements or repairs from 400 to 200 as of June 15.

Taylor said the team repaired 72 chairs in Juniper Hall, reupholstered lounge seating in Live Oak Hall, replaced the lobby furniture in Mountain Laurel Hall and began redesigning the cafeteria.

According to Taylor’s presentation, the management team “deployed a systematic approach with cycles of improvement that has been integrated into college procedures.”

Taylor said this systematic approach includes using their findings as key input for budget, purchasing and project decisions and ensuring resources are more available to budget managers.

Alderete said he was impressed by the management team’s ability to save money by reupholstering furniture rather than replacing it. He said the board should research the cost-effectiveness of this process and consider using it throughout the other colleges.

During the Community Involvement Committee meeting Dec. 13, McClendon said a lack of information provided to the public has caused a void between the district and the community.

Board Chair Yvonne Katz, District 7 trustee, said the board should focus on the accreditation issue and getting accurate information out to the community.

This college and St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges were placed on an accreditation warning list after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges visited in September, declaring the three colleges’ autonomy at risk and in violation of six of their comprehensive standards for accreditation.

“We really need to focus on the accreditation piece,” Katz said. “That needs to be our front-runner.”

Alderete said there is a lot of misinformation about what the board’s role is in the community, leading people to believe they have more control over the accreditation warning than they actually do.

Alderete said people need accurate information about what the board’s role is in policy and what the chancellor’s role is in the educational hierarchy.

Sprague said the board has accreditation solutions at hand, but he doesn’t understand why the problem cannot be resolved within two weeks.


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