Associate in Arts for Transfer: Random thoughts and some predictions

We have two new kinds of degrees in California:  AA-T’s and AS-T’s.  I am not the most knowledgeable historian of the AA-T pattern, but I have learned a lot and will share what I think I know (comments welcome).

Summary:  There are now 22 majors that can guarantee a student with a 2.0 grade average a seat in the CSU ahead of other applicants for transfer.  

The plan, at first, was to identify the top 20 most popular majors and to streamline them so that students intending to transfer could get to transfer sooner and more cheaply.  The goal was to have each major be around 60 units.  Provisions were soon made for “high unit majors” as well, since some majors simply can’t be done and the GE pattern accomplished in 60 units.  But the goal is 60 units.

(For simplicity’s sake, I’m referring to them as AA-T’s from now on).

An AA-T fulfills the IGETC OR the CSU Breadth patterns that we all know and love.  Yes, it’s a little confusing to students, too.  We need to get better – in the classroom – at reaching out to students and advising them about transfer.  The counselors do a remarkable job at staying current on all of this, but all of us need to know the basics, so we can help students.

A course from the major can also be counted toward the IGETC or CSU Breadth pattern.  So, if the major fulfills, say, Social Science Breadth with its 18 or so units, the student can spend the rest of their 60 units on whatever they want (more social science if they like it; other subjects if they like those).  The more diverse a major pattern is, the more flexibility the student has in choosing electives.

So what’s going to happen to our old General Studies Pattern III majors?  Apparently, they still fulfill the transfer requirement, but they are not on schedule to be a preferred way to transfer; students with AA-T’s get preference.  Since our local CSU must allow the AA-T students in first, that means unless our students have an AA-T they are unlikely to get in.  Only 10% of CSUCI’s students are currently from Ventura County.  There is an increasingly “backlog” of AA-T students waiting to get into a transfer school of their choice.

One question that will almost certain be upon is, therefore, is whether we continue to offer that General Studies Pattern III A.A. degree.  Students are already confused enough about how to transfer and what gives them priority.  My personal view (and to be frank, this is the view of nearly everyone I’ve talked to so far – so if your view differs PLEASE make it known sometime soon, we want a robust dialogue about this):  we need to end the GS degrees.  They promise something they may never be able to deliver, as students from around California with AA-T’s compete for slots in the CSU.

Further, I believe strongly that the UC’s will soon follow suit and there will be one and only one way of transferring from a community college to a public university:  The AA-T’s (also called Transfer Model Curriculum or TMC process).

Will it become the case that only AA’T’s are accepted?  That’s a trickier question, but after hearing the president of CSUCI speak to the Board of Trustees this month (December 2012), I realized it’s something of a moot point.  The AA-T’s get preference – and right now, that’s enough to lock out students without AA-T’s.

On a happy side note, at the Fall Plenary Session, the State Academic Senate agreed and authorized its Exec Board to continue investigation into a resolution involving automatic degrees and certificates.  Right now, a student who meets all the qualifications for a degree or certificate has to go one extra step and file a petition to graduate.  Even with Degreeworks, students are not always aware which degree they either already have finished or are about to finish.  Naturally, that will be changing.  Students will become more savvy about figuring out which degrees they are about to receive (right now, as I understand it Degreeworks only calculates the student’s pathway to local A.A.’s not the AA-T’s – if I’m wrong about this, someone please correct me).  But, the State Senate is proposing that colleges be allowed to go ahead and award degrees to any student who has completed the pattern.  This would, by the way, up completion rates at community colleges since students do in fact transfer without bothering to collect their degree (and we are told that completion rates are tied to our financial future and to the administration of Prop 92 funds – which is our primary funding; how this going to take place is anyone’s guess).

So, within a few years, it is possible that

1) only AA-T’s will allow students to transfer (either by CSU choice or de facto)

2) that degrees will be awarded automatically (which may also up transfer – we hope so)

3) that baseline data collected today will reveal much about the most popular pathways to transfer in ways we are not accustomed to seeing

All of this is reshaping what we do.  Eventually, the State TMC process widened to include 22 completed majors.  Not all of them are completely worked out.  Each major developed a statewide task force, with invitations sent to every full time faculty person in the disciplines involved.  Academic Senate Presidents were advised of which groups were underway (Philosophy finally finished on December 10, 2012).  

Schools took different views on how to proceed with establishing AA-T’s.  Some of us wanted to wait until the TMC was finalized to submit our AA-T’s to our curriculum committees and Boards.  Other schools went ahead and did some guesswork, knowing that they could still tweak their curriculum further if needed, but also knowing that if the state curriculum was close to final, they would get a jumpstart on other schools.  At any rate, there are 22 available TMC patterns as of today, with two more nearing completion (Chemistry and Spanish) and three currently under construction.  The link just above will show you all that information.  There’s also a link on that page where you can sign up for your discipline to receive future updates.  

80% of Oxnard College students come to us stating that they want a B.A., only about 18% actually transfer.  In the end, all of this is about changing that.  Notice that there’s no distinction between CTE and Transfer any more.  CTE and STEM disciplines receive AS-Ts, that’s the only difference.  Four of the existing 22 TMC patterns are CTE; more are on the horizon.  If you’re curious as to whether your own discipline will eventually be included (if it’s not already), use the listserv sign-up link on the page I linked to above to see a drop-down menu of the disciplines who have organized at the State level.

Who organizes these groups?  The State Chancellor’s Office in conjunction with the State Academic Senates (Community College and CSU Senates – and soon, the UC’s).  In other words, we do.  

For more information about how the C-ID and TMC process might affect you, see my other post on the C-ID process.

From a local perspective, our own program review processes are incorporating TMC issues into program review.  We want to up transfers, so having an AA-T or AS-T is a good thing.  It’s something we need to support.  It may eventually be the case that a student cannot transfer without an AA-T/AS-T, so we need to plan for the future.  

There are compliance issues, as well.  New legislation requires that we construct TMC degrees for any disciplines where we already have degrees.  From my perspective, there is now a two-tiered system of transfer coursework:

1)  Coursework that is part of a specific TMC pattern

2)  All other GE Breadth Coursework

Since, once you combine all the 22 majors together, it’s entirely possible for a student to get a degree and meet their breadth/GE requirements, those disciplines that do not have any degree at all and are simply doing GE may end up looking redundant – in the future, a future that may be 4-5 years away.  Money for the community colleges is not going to go up; indeed, I suspect that despite efforts by the State Academic Senate to hold on to the mission statement of the community colleges that other missions, such as Pres. Obama’s Completion Agenda, are going to take root, redirect grant funding (already happening) and reshape our mission.  But even if not, transfer is still part of our mission, and it is huge reason that students come to our college.  Every dollar, every unit is going to count, going to be budgeted.

The underlying reason is pretty simple.  The entire planet is on austerity measures because we’re reaching our limits of expansion.  Even technological expansion cannot continue without large numbers of highly educated people working in teams, within a corporate structure (unless someone devises another economic system).  We are needed to rise to this crucial demand:  creating an educated citizenry.

While OC is only required to build 14 TMC patterns (by my quick calculation), I believe we should look at trying for more.  I also think that if your discipline is on that TMC list and you aren’t complying with the new rules (it’s actually law) by putting your TMC in place, it’s going to be a real problem at program review time.  Fortunately, nearly everyone is done!  The pioneers in the field (Amy Edwards, Marie Butler, Linda Chaparro, Robert Cabral and the business faculty in general) are of great assistance, but I can tell you that if you’re really confused the go-to people are Shannon Davis and Krista Mendelsohn.  

If you’ve read this post and the one on C-ID’s and can improve upon the information I’ve given, please email me at ASAP.  

I still have questions, but I think I know the answers.  While recent legislation requires 100% compliance with providing AA-T’s where ever we have AA’s, I think it goes without saying that those must AA-T’s must actually work for transfer (which means that the curriculum must be C-ID and must have gone through the State approval process, which is getting a little slow).  As long as it’s in the pipeline at the State, I believe we’re compliant, but we aren’t really meeting the spirit of the law until the TMC’s at OC are fully operational, and we should all be working together to get that done.  



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