Only new students will receive generic diplomas.
By Bleah B. Patterson
Students, faculty and administrators are trying to understand the move to generic degrees as the situation evolves, and it is the Texas Legislature that is to blame, Chancellor Bruce Leslie said.
To resolve districtwide confusion, students enrolled at any of the Alamo Colleges before this semester will not be affected by the degree change and their concentrations will be printed onto their diplomas, Leslie said Tuesday.
Students who choose to graduate using the degree plan with the catalog year they started will have their concentrations on their diplomas and transcripts, he said.
Students who began fall 2014, or begin any semester after, will not have a concentration specified on their diploma unless further changes are made.
“We’re trying to figure out how to make this work, too,” Leslie said. “It’s constantly changing, and we’re working with the statewide system the best we can.”
In April the president and vice chancellor’s committee, PVC, chose to remove concentrations, or major specifications, from Associate of Arts and Associate of Science diplomas after a recommendation by the accrediting agency liaisons here and at Northeast Lakeview, St. Philip’s and Northwest Vista colleges. Northeast Lakeview is in the process of accreditation. The other three Alamo Colleges are approaching reaffirmation.
Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, sent an email Sept. 19 to employees districtwide with an update about the degree change.
“Students that enrolled prior to the fall 2014 term may choose whether or not to seek the A.A. or A.S. under a previous catalog with a field of study on the transcript,” Fabianke wrote.
It was the word “transcript” and the omission of the word “diploma” in the email that led to President Mike Flores of Palo Alto College and Dr. Robert Vela, president of this college to contradict each other in interviews.
Leslie said confusion happens when faculty and students do not understand the evolution of a process evolving from the conception of an idea to the final product.
“If we take anything from our offices and make it public before we’ve finished the process, some people assume it’s finalized, but often it’s far from it,” Leslie said.
In response to discussions among college accreditation liaisons, college Presidents and vice chancellors, Leslie sent a letter seeking clarification last week to a representative at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
He said he does not expect to hear back from the agency until next week because a lot of the administrators are in a conference.
He said everyone has put more emphasis on what will be written “on a piece of paper,” instead of the value of the education and the experience students will gain from their courses.
“What we’re trying to do, ultimately, is reduce waste,” Leslie said, “wasted time and money.”
“The issue is transferring. So many schools require different courses for a major.
“We want to be flexible and allow students to take what they need for bachelor’s degrees.
“We want them to graduate here, yes, but we ultimately want them to get a bachelor’s degree,” he said.
Leslie said everything else is just semantics and policy.
“If we were in California or Florida, then this might be different, easier,” he said.
“But this is Texas and we have to work with that,” Leslie said.
Leslie said the district’s legislative agendas for the 84th session beginning January 2015, which include aligning course numbers statewide at both community colleges and universities, will help solve this problem.
“Right now we’re dealing with a lot of uncertainty, but our intent is to attain legislation creating a common core numbering system.
“We presented it last session but were defeated. The bill will be refiled for this legislative session.”
“But winning over the legislature is a much bigger issue,” Leslie said.
The Academic Course Guide Manual regulated all of the community college course numbers in the state, but four-year universities do not have to regulate their.
In the meantime, Leslie said, he is taking the work district officials have done with San Antonio Independent School District and creating similar relationships with four-year universities and a pathway from high school through college graduation and into the workforce.
It might not be a perfect system, Leslie said, “but we’re doing everything we can to help students become successful and not waste their time or money.”