Generic degrees cause a stir at Palo Alto College

By Kendra Robinson
Pulse Staff Reporter

Photo of students protesting generic degrees on Oct. 13. Photo by Joseph Losoya.
Students protest generic degrees on Oct. 13. Photo by Joseph Losoya.

Attention incoming Palo Alto students! New general degree plans will only affect those who entered into Palo Alto for the first time this year.

This alteration will only directly affect those pursuing an Associate’s in Arts or an Associate’s in Science, but not all entering freshman are happy with the change.

“You are putting in your time and effort to earn this degree in your major, and we are not even going to be credited for that. This is like high school all over again,” said Stephany Martinez, a freshman.

Even though this change was mentioned in the new catalog for this school year, it was an issue that was not communicated very well, leading to much confusion about what is entailed by these generic degrees, and who exactly will be affected.

“Changes for the entering class of fall 2014, under a new catalog, these students will have a general AA or AS at this time, utilizing an advising guide,” said Dr. Mike Flores, president of Palo Alto College.

Anybody who enrolled in Palo Alto College prior to Fall 2014 falls under a different catalog, and they will not be affected by this change for the “degree designation.”

Vanessa Castillo, a Palo Alto student, said that she did not really like the whole idea of generic degrees until she realized the process would not affect her. However, she is still upset with the lack of communication between administration and the student body.

“If you entered prior to 2014, you are under another catalog, and those students will have their majors transcribed,” said Flores.

If you are a student who is not majoring in an AA or AS and have already been enrolled before this academic year, those majors will be left as they are on your transcripts. Those who are first-time students this fall, who intend to pursue a degree of AA or AS will not have their major transcribed because there “is not enough course work to constitute this as a true major in a field of study,” according to the Southern Association of Colleges.

The Alamo Colleges are not the only colleges that have started this new program. Dallas County Community College has also began something very similar. The goal is to ensure a successful transfer to a university after obtaining the associate’s degree, according to Flores.

The Faculty Senate met on Oct. 8 to discuss the generic degrees and the issues they are actually causing. Even though this change is in place to have students earn their 42 core hours and 18 hours of electives to obtain an associate’s degree, many students are not happy about this decision.

“They are arguing that our courses may or may not transfer to a four-year institution,” said Patrick R. Lee, Faculty Senate president.

Students, both new and previously enrolled, should know that this new catalog will not affect those who are here for their Associate’s of Art in Teaching or their Associate’s in Applied Science.

“Those degrees will still have their majors transcribed,” said Flores.

Even though this change was in the degree catalog, the new “generic degrees” were not communicated to the incoming students. Flores said that students will meet with advisers and keep track of their courses so transferring will be easier in the long run.

On Oct. 13, a group of students protested the generic degrees in front of the Palomino Center. KSAT-12 news was there to capture the moment, as was TPR’s Joey Palacios. In his story, KSAT reporter Bryan Mylar said that Dr. Mike Flores is in the process of working on a compromise on this issue.

In the KSAT story, Simon Sanchez, a Palo Alto student, said, “They [incoming freshmen} were notified four weeks into the semester about this change, and we believe that this change affects something that the students value very much.”