ASL program one step closer to bachelor’s degree

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Texas Legislature could vote on a proposal from this college.

By J. Carbajal

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

The American Sign Language and interpreting program is continuing to seek approval for a bachelor of applied arts and sciences program.

The Texas Legislature has to approve a community college offering a bachelor’s degree.

Lauri Metcalf, chair of languages, American Sign Language and interpreting, turned in the proposal to President Robert Vela March 3, she said in an email March 28 after a March 21 interview.

The Texas Legislature will determine the outcome of this proposal at the end of the legislative session in late May.

Bachelor programs in community colleges provide a cost-effective option for a higher degree to a wider range of students, according to the Education Commission of the States.

However, there is concern that four-year degrees could cause negative competition between community colleges and local universities.

To obtain approval for a new program, an institution must prove that it is not a duplication of another university’s program in the area and that there is no possibility for collaboration with a four-year university, according to the ECS.

The Education Commission of the States, or ECS, gathers and disseminates information on state education policies, and is found at www.ecs.org.

The ASL program has no current articulation agreement with any universities that offer a bachelor’s degree in interpreting because universities have no more hours than the college’s program offers, Metcalf said March 21.

Austin Community College currently offers an Associate of Applied Science in American Sign Language and interpreter training.

This college offers an Associate of Arts with optional electives in American Sign Language and two Associate of Applied Science degrees. One is in deaf support specialist and the other is interpreter training.

The goal of the current interpreter training program is state-level certification. A bachelor’s degree is not required, but the B.A.A.S. would give interpreting students 30 additional hours to be better prepared for the certification test, Metcalf said.

“It’s very hard to expect a student to learn the language, and not just at a conversation level, but at that level of proficiency to interpret and then to learn that complicated process of interpreting, in those seven semesters. The pass rate at the state level is very low because it’s a difficult test,” Metcalf said. Students must pass the Texas Board for Evaluation of Interpreters test to complete the A.A.S. degree in interpreting and attain state level certification.

There are different levels of certification, each with a corresponding test. The Test of English Proficiency has a 60 percent pass rate, the Basic test has 39 percent, the Advanced has 29 percent and the Master test 50 percent, according to the BEI page on the health and human services website.

The fire science program is also in the early stages of attaining a bachelor’s program. States have allowed community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees as early as the 1990s, to meet a growing need for employees with bachelor’s degrees in the workplace, according to the ECS. There are three Texas community colleges that offer bachelor programs, South Texas College in McAllen, Midland College and Brazosport College, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

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