Requirements get tougher for community college degrees |

Requirements get tougher for community college degrees

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunStudents review an assignment in an english class at Sierra College on Thursday. The academic senate agreed unanimously to increase the requirements for two-year associate degrees at community colleges, particularly as they relate to english and math.

Sierra College is ahead of the curve when it comes to helping students succeed at the university level.

The governing board for California’s community colleges voted unanimously last week to raise the requirements for a two-year associate’s degree, starting in the fall 2009 semester, but Sierra College Dean Rick Rantz said that his campus is already on its way.

“I recognized that this was a need without them dictating it,” Rantz said, noting that he has been working to develop additional English and math courses since he stepped in as dean in 2005.

Under the new initiative, students seeking an associate’s degree will be required to pass both a college-level math and English course, replacing the current requirement of elementary algebra and high-school level English, Rantz said.

But the problem, Rantz said, is that many students who want to earn their college degrees are not able to make the jump from high-school-level to college-level classes, and that requiring students to take more sophisticated courses might discourage them from trying at all.

“We have approximately 70 percent of our students who test below college level math on their assessment,” Rantz said. “And several of the students who are planning below the college level English are second language learners.”

The solution, Rantz said, was the development of a number of new “bridge” courses that serve to fill the gap between high school and the community college.

“For students who don’t have college-level skills, we have a pathway for them to succeed; we have the courses to bring them up to speed,” Rantz said. “We’re also going to have to provide a lot of other supports services “tutorial-type services ” in addition to the bridge classes.”

Some high school and college counselors are saying that they are less concerned about the impact that the course requirements will have on students coming straight from high school, and more concern about non-traditional students, such as adult learners.

“Look at how many older students haven’t been in college for years ” they are going to have to go back and take lower level classes first,” said Tahoe Truckee High School counselor Paul Christiansen. “I know that I would have a hard time.”

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