Kent State University wants to start awarding two-year degrees to students on their way to four-year degrees, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Students who earn 60 credit hours could qualify for the associate degree, which would “provide a fallback” for those who never complete a bachelor’s degree — and increase state funding.
Of the money that Ohio sets aside for four-year public schools, a greater share this year is tied to the number of degrees that schools grant. That includes associate degrees, even though they traditionally have been a specialty of community colleges and the regional campuses of four-year universities.
That could be a boon for Kent State but take a toll on other schools –– the state sets aside only a certain amount of money for colleges, so more for Kent State means less for others.
Community college presidents are wary of competition. “It’s gaming the system,” said Karen E. Rafinski, interim president of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.
All four-year colleges should award associate degrees to students who finish two years of higher education, argues Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of George Washington University, in an Inside Higher Ed commentary.
He imagines two brothers. One goes to community college, earns an associate degree and finds a job. The other goes to a university but drops out in his third year. Without a credential, he can’t find an entry-level job.
Three years of college study but no earned degree is worth less in the market place than two years of college that culminates in an associate degree. If that is so, then why not award the A.A. to students who successfully complete two years of study but don’t make it to the finish line at traditional four-year institutions?
An associate degree in no particular field of study isn’t worth much in the workforce. The dropout brother would do better to reverse transfer to a community college and pick a field of study that lets him use some of his old credits.