Transfer Degree Raising Completion Rates

By Maura King Scully

College of the Canyons awarded significantly more associate degrees this year, thanks to the state’s new transfer-degree program.

On June 3, College of the Canyons (COC), in northern Los Angeles County, awarded diplomas to 1,766 students — a 21 percent increase over the class of 2015.

That significant increase is mainly due to the new Associate Degree for Transfer program says Audrey Green, COC’s associate vice president of academic affairs.

California community college students can now earn the new AA-T or AS-T (T, for transfer) degrees, which are designed specifically for transfer to the California State University (CSU) System. Students who complete an AA-T or AS-T are guaranteed admittance to one of the 23 CSU campuses, though not necessarily their first choice.

In addition, AA-T/AS-T students enter the CSU system as a junior and need only 60 more semester units (or 90 quarter units) to complete a bachelor’s degree (120 units total).

Streamlining coursework

COC has also reduced the need for students to take classes that are not necessary for their majors. For example, COC students who are not pursuing degrees in the sciences no longer have to take science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) classes or a calculus math pathway, thereby shortening their time to degree completion.

The college has also developed degree pathways to help students choose specific courses each semester to stay on track. “This [transfer] program is packaged differently,” Green says. “Our faculty have taken the guesswork out of classes so that students follow a specific path to obtain the degree.”

Transfer degrees are popular with students; Green points to the psychology major as evidence. “Psychology used to have 60 people working toward associate degrees. Now we have 17 traditional psychology majors and 174 Associate Degree for Transfer students,” she says.

In addition to offering 21 Associate Degree for Transfer majors, COC continues to serve students who are pursuing traditional AA and AS degrees.

The college has also increased its support programs for all students, developing online guided-learning activities for English, math and science. Popular modules include Math Anxiety, Outlining Your Essay, How to Start an Essay, and Avoiding Plagiarism.

To get the word out about the new transfer degrees, COC has retooled its marketing strategies. “We’ve shifted more to digital,” says Eric Harnish, COC’s vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations. “We’re using Facebook, Google and even Pandora for reaching our target demographic.”

With this new program as well as its traditional offerings, COC is on a path to increase the size of its graduating class every year. “Our projections show that over the next decade enrollment will increase by 50 percent,” Harnish says.

Maura King Scully

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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