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Associate Degrees to be Limited to 60 Hours

Saturday, June 7, 2014
By Eladio Jaimez

StudentsAdministrators at Texas State Technical College have started working on limiting the amount of semester credit hours needed to complete an associate's degree as set forth by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and keeping in compliance with minimum requirements by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

TSTC Vice President for Student Learning Rebecca Silva said the amendment to the existing rules would require only 60 credit hours in order to be awarded an associate degree. The new format would go into effect starting Fall 2015.

"It's not implemented yet but we have started working with all our Department Chairs from the day I got here," Silva said.

Silva was hired in March and immediately began working on molding the new degree plans. She credited all of the divisions, departments, and the curriculum office with laying most of the ground work needed to move forward with these changes.

"The Department Chairs, Division Directors, Associate Vice Presidents, and the curriculum office deserve a lot of credit. They met with faculty and those directly involved with program curricula and made decisions on which courses to collapse (or combine) and which ones we could do without." Silva said.

The impetus to move forward with these changes came from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in order to allow a student to complete their degree in two years and join the Texas workforce.

"We want our students to move along and graduate within a reasonable amount of time," Silva said. "It was a matter of efficiency."

While all associate degree programs will be reduced to 60 credit hours, there will still be some that might require more but not many, Silva said.

According to the THECB, the institution can determine if there is "compelling academic reason" for requiring additional semester credit hours.

"Our biggest hurdle will be in the health career programs," Silva said. "There's a lot of specialized learning and clinical practicum that needs to be considered. But we'll get it all down by the fall."

Silva said that even though the new format won't be effective until Fall 2015, administrators at TSTC wanted to move forward with adjusting the degree programs now in order to give themselves time to adjust and readjust where needed.

"We just want enough time to visit and revisit the changes and give ourselves some breathing room," Silva said. "This has been a lot of work."

TSTC currently offers 27 Associate of Applied Science degrees, including 14 in the Allied Health Division, and five Associate of Science Degrees.

For more information on what programs are offered at TSTC, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenprograms.

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