I’m done, finished, AA in Fine Art in hand. In some ways, getting this AA was a lot more difficult than getting my BS in Math all those years ago.
The community college system is a wreck overall, with a graduation rate in the SDCCD averaging 23% over 2 years. The percentage rises somewhat over 6 years, but is still not great. Lots of opinions as to why the graduation rate is so low, but one problem that I encountered had to do with getting the classes I needed, when I needed to take them.
Budgets dictate everything at the community college level. If a class is “under enrolled,” it is canceled. Even if it is a class that is required to complete a major. Even if the class is only offered every other year. Maintaining completeness in programs that result in an AA isn’t a priority. It’s all about the budget.
So when I needed one more Art History class, and one more Digital Art class, I found myself caught up in the battle of the budget at Mesa College. My Art History class was canceled, and it was too late to get into any other sections, since I had last priority to register. A counselor told me to take the class “at any other California community college.” So I did. Unfortunately, I discovered that Coastline College is apparently the only CC that does NOT have an articulation agreement with any other CC system in California.
I had to petition Mesa to get my Coastline Art History class accepted as a substitute. The courses were equivalent – same text, similar work, etc. It took several months for the class to be evaluation before it was accepted as a substitute. Months!
The last class I needed was Digital Drawing and Painting. The Mesa class was cancelled at the last minute, and would not be offered again until the next year. I found an equivalent at Grossmont College, and, due to the diligence and helpfulness of Mesa’s art department Chair, I was able to get that final course accepted towards my AA. That process only took 2 more months.
In all, getting my AA took 3 years. Keep in mind that I already have a 4 year degree from a UC. I can’t even begin to imagine the hoops that kids right out of high school must jump through in order to get all the classes they need, when they need to take them, and how hard it must be for them to be successful at community college. Sometimes, when kids ask me for my opinion on whether they should stay an extra year to get their AA or to apply to a 4 year school, I tell them to go ahead and apply. If they get accepted, they can go on to get that 4 year degree and not worry about the AA. But I feel like we should worry more about why it is so difficult to complete that AA. We should worry more about why the graduation rate at community college is only 23%. We should worry more about creating sustainable programs at the community college level. We should worry more about keeping kids in class by keeping the classrooms open. The question is, how do we do that?