RCC: 2-year degrees more like 3-year degrees

RCC stats show that the average 2008-09 grad took 2.9 years to meet requirements

By Marissa Woltanski

Byline Staff

“If the student is taking 15 credits and has their eye on the then, yeah, it’s possible to get it all done,” said Claudia Sullivan, Director of Enrollment at RCC. She responded to concerns that RCC’s 2-year degrees are becoming impossible to earn in only two years.

Many RCC students struggle to finish their two-year degree in just two years. According to Bryan Herve, an institutional research officer for RCC, the 2008-09 graduation class took an average of 2.9 years to earn their associate degree.

Michelle Gray, of the counseling department, said it’s very important to look at “what your reality is; what does you life look like?”

Gray, an RCC graduate herself, said she tries to stress to the students she counsels that importance of figuring out how to balance one’s student life with the responsibilities of a parent, spouse, or employee.

The two-year timeline is based on a student testing into college-level reading, writing and math. For example, should a student test into a remedial math, they will have to spend four additional terms taking the required math courses. The same goes for reading and writing.

Gray explained the process a new student goes through from placement  testing and the new student orientation to the first advising session. One of the first things Gray does whenever she facilitates orientations for new students is pull out an “academic ladder.” The ladder is a simple table that helps new students visualize the road taken to fulfill the requirements of their degree.

“I can’t speak for everyone in the department, but we really stress the importance of pre-planning your degree,” Gray said.

Gray recommends that transfer students work backwards when it comes to planning their schedules. Students should look at what their chosen program requirements are, so they will know in advance when they’ll need to take specific classes.

College officials have identified what they call “the magnificent seven” — the most-needed prerequisite classes: MTH60, PSY101, PSY202, SP111, WR115, WR121, and WR122. The college tries to offer as many sections of those classes as possible.

“We are trying really hard to make it available,” RCC President Dr. Peter Angstadt said.

Dr. Verne Underwood, head of RCC’s Humanities Department, believes that state budget shortfalls are partly responsible for students remaining at RCC for so long. Underwood said the size of college’s full-time faculty has remained unchanged for many years, while enrollment continues to rise.

“We haven’t grown as a faculty because of funding,” Underwood said. “We’ve rarely had good news from the state. Meanwhile, enrollment goes up and up.”

Underwood recently hired more part-time writing instructors to help meet demand — and those classes are already filling up.

RCC’s 2008-09 Summative Report indicated that most students were unsatisfied with the number of core classes available during the day. The report also indicated that Request-A-Course and waitlisting may be ineffective at predicting — or fulfilling — the needs of students.

Gray and Sullivan recommended contacting the Associated Student Government, which has successfully lobbied for state support on the college’s behalf in the past.

Angstadt, Gray and Sullivan all strongly encourage students to utilize the services of RCC’s advisers and counselors. Students should inform themselves on changes in public policy and be prepared to make a stand on what higher education means to them, Angstadt said.

Future class availability could be affected by the outcome of Measures 66 and 67, Underwood said. Both are tax referendums.

If the measures do not pass, RCC could be forced to make nearly $9 million in budget cuts, Sullivan said. A “yes” vote would only “keep us where we’re at,” according to Sullivan.

“If we short-change students, then I believe we are short-changing our economy,” Angstadt said.

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