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Alamo Colleges Students Voice ‘Generic’ Degree Concerns To Board; Trustees Seem To Hear Their Voice

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Palo Alto College student Simon Sanchez is joined by many other students from the other four Alamo Colleges

This was not a happy gathering. The Citizens to be Heard portion of the Alamo Colleges board meeting, late Tuesday night, lasted more than an hour. And nearly every one of the three-minute speaking slots belonged to a frustrated student.

In April, the Alamo Colleges, a system of five community colleges in and around San Antonio, decided on the removal of majors from most degrees and transcripts. This meant graduating classes majoring in an Associate of Arts of Science program, would receive a simple A.A. or A.S. certification, not a specific subject major.

Palo Alto College Student, Simon Sanchez, with more than 20 people lined up behind, made an impassioned plea.

“We value our field of study, and we would be proud to hold a degree that shows the fruits of our labor. The administration says we’re over reacting, that this is not a big deal, it’s just a piece of paper right? No! Maybe for them, who have multiple degrees, but not for us,” said Sanchez.

The rationale, on the part of the Colleges presidents and vice chancellors — who made the decision, one the board was not involved in — was they would instead shape a program based on a student’s future plans, affording the student more flexibility when transferring to a four-year college degree program. This was done keeping in mind the Texas legislature, Higher Coordinating Board, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools views on credit hours.

The decision applied only to incoming freshmen, and was listed on the catalog last semester, but not communicated verbally till September. But it was, to those most affected, a confusing state of affairs.

Enedina Kikuyu, the parent of a student, was visibly furious.

“[The students] want degrees with titles; they want to be proud of what they’re getting. When have you ever known anyone from San Antonio to be ashamed of the education that they’re getting?”

Jo-Carol Fabianke, Vice Chancellor of Academic Success, said it was a complex situation.

“There is a tendency right now to ensure that students don’t take excess hours, because even the coordinating board talks about students getting 90 hours plus for a two-year degree.” The state, however, has set a 60-hour cap in this regard.

That might be so, but Board Chair Anna Bustamante was clearly displeased with the lack of communication.

“To be fair to students, I truly and sincerely believe that there should be something on that degree indicating what they’re studying. I don’t know every tiny detail but I do know that I want to put the student interests first.”

Trustee Joe Alderete agreed.

“I think it something that the chancellor and the staff should reconsider and look at the more objectively, and look at it from the student’s point of view.”

Fabianke, asked if it were still possible to include a student’s intended major on a degree or transcript, was non-committal, but didn’t rule out anything. The Alamo Colleges, meanwhile, is hiring 50 additional advisors as part of its AlamoADVISE initiative, to better tailor individual degree plans.