Think, Know, Prove: Degrees of Difference

Think, Know, Prove is an occasional Saturday feature, where a topic with both mystery and importance is posted for community discussion. The title is a shortened version of the Investigative Mantra: What do we think, what do we know, what can we prove? and everything from wild speculation to resource referencing fact is welcome here.

So, last fall at the Q &A after the President welcomed back the faculty at HW Faculty Development Week, Anthony Escuadro (Physical Science) asked Don (President) a question about something we’d heard a lot about at DWFDW–namely, the big increases in degrees earned by CCC students. Anthony asked about what percentage of the increase in degrees was made up of increases in Associates in Arts (AA) degrees versus, say, Associates in General Studies degrees (AGS). Don said he didn’t know, but he recognized the importance of the question and said a little about some of the background, including a mention of how, originally, “a decision had been made” to default students onto AGS tracks, but that the presidents had now recognized that to be a mistake.

Anthony’s question was one that I had also wondered about amid the glowing reports of the “increased numbers of degrees” and, though I didn’t exactly know the answer yet, I knew I had it sitting on my desk at home.

A few weeks earlier, you see, annoyed with the annual budget nonsense at the K-12 and District levels, I had printed out the 2014 budget and an old one from 2009 (since the 2014 budget had numbers running back to 2008 in it) in order to get a look see at some things. Part of what I find annoying about budgets is that they generally only ever look forward and they ALWAYS leave a lot of things unsaid. Predictions and plans and org charts from earlier budgets are forgotten or ignored for the most part except for the very recent past, and the recent is everything. Speaking as someone who likes to read things from thousands of years ago, I find that a little shortsighted and it always galls me that the budgets don’t seem to talk with each other, that there is so little continuity from one to the next, much less to the ones from a decade ago. (With a little luck and better planning and enough need to procrastinate, there will be another one of these later in the year, but with spending and staffing numbers. If you ever want a giggle, take a look at the org chart from one of those budgets about ten years back. But I digress.)

Anyway, while making some charts about spending, I happened across some charts showing the numbers and types of degrees granted, and I found similar charts in the 2009 budget going back to 2003. Ah-ha! I thought. How interesting. Now we can get inside the numbers a bit and see what this “degree increase” is all about.

All I had to do was type up some tables and whip up some charts and bing0-bango, we would know if it was true, as some of us feared, that all or most or a big, big hunk of the “increase in credentials of economic value” was due to an increase in the conferral of our least valuable degree, the Associates in General Studies (a.k.a., the AGS), which is a non-transfer degree for students who are in college for “personal interest.”

Well, it took four months, but I finally built my tables and whipped up my charts, and have a tentative answer–the news is not great, but not as bad as I’d feared either. Maybe you’ll see something different. The details (with numbers and tables and charts and pretty colors for the math-phobic and artsy types) are below the break. Read on if you think you can handle the truth. (more…)