New Arts and Letters program makes it easier for students to return to school

Daisy Aguilar

The College of Arts and Letters will launch a pilot bachelor’s degree completion program fall 2014 to make it easier for students with other life obligations to return to school.

The program is specifically designed for students who left school due to course scheduling patterns, and will offer classes in the evening, online and on Saturdays.

“This program is one pathway for students to return and complete a bachelor’s degree,” said Christina Bellon, chair of the department of philosophy. “There is, of course, always the traditional pathway of just coming back and trying to make it work.”

After the Faculty Senate approved the Arts and Letters Bachelor’s Completion Degree Program resolution earlier this month, the program is awaiting approval by Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez.

Students who return to school the traditional way will not be offered these classes and would spend more time in completing their degree.

Edward Inch, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said students in the program would be able to receive a degree in only three semesters.

Bellon said students who stopped-out are interested in going back to school and often reach out to her for assistance.

“This (program) would be an alternative for a student who wanted the satisfaction of having their university degree completed or they wanted that degree to enable them to be in a position for a promotion at work or a raise,” Bellon said.

Inch said almost 1,700 students drop out from Sac State each year and only about 7 percent return to school.

The program will specifically target the other 93 percent.

In order for returning students to be part of the program, they must have completed 84 units prior to dropping out, have not returned for at least a year and be in good academic standing.

Students who return to Sac State through the program will be offered courses available through the College of Arts and Letters.

After completing courses through the program, students will be eligible to receive a specialized bachelor’s degree in Arts and Letters that would be reflective of core ideas in the disciplines of the college.

Some of the disciplines include philosophy, history and English.

The completion program, which will be driven by student tuition, will be controlled by the College of Arts and Letter and marketed by the College of Continuing Education.

Aaron Cohen, chair of the department of history, said the College of Continuing Education specializes in targeting people who have been out of school.

“This is a program that is not really for students,” Cohen said. “It’s for community members who have left the university and do not have a way to come back, but they need a bachelor’s degree. The College of Continuing Education is set up to find out who they are and market to them.”

In 2012, CSU Chancellor Timothy White put out a call asking for inventive ideas to address low graduation rates across campuses.

Gonzalez then assembled a task force on graduation rates and completion.

The College of Arts and Letters subcommittee of the president’s task force looked into ways to bring students back to school, thus creating the Arts and Letters Bachelor’s Completion Degree Program.

Since it is only a pilot program, it will be offered for five years and then be reviewed to see if it was successful enough to implement as a permanent program.

The completion program will be the first offered at Sac State. Other colleges are looking into launching similar programs in the future.

Cohen said he made calls to different schools who offered a comparable program to figure out exactly what a completion degree was and how it was offered.

Cohen, Bellon and Jeffrey Brodd, chair of Humanities and Religious Studies, worked together to organize the program.

“The three of us on the committee divided those (schools) up and did the research into what a completion degree is, how other universities constructed theirs in terms of curriculum and also administration,” Cohen said.

Other CSUs with a completion program include Sonoma State and CSU Long Beach.

Their programs are held at a university level and have been successful in having students return to school to complete their degree.

Inch said the goal is to have 50 students in the program next fall.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Inch said. “We think that this creates an environment where we make the schedule work for students who need this kind of assistance. I think this will be popular program.”