Universities want to cut the number of credit hours needed to earn a bachelor’s degree from 124 to 120, and two-year colleges are being asked to follow suit by trimming the number of credit hours in an associate degree. On Tuesday, the Barton Community College Board of Trustees approved a general education proposal so it can develop associate degrees that can be earned with 60 credit hours, instead of the current 64.
“The model that we have is about 50 years old,” said Brian Howe, dean of Academics. The Learning and Instruction Committee has been working on a draft for new degree plans since January. Members discussed the desired general education learning outcomes and created the templates for new plans.
The plans start with foundational coursework such as writing and oral communication, mathematics and computer literacy, which is similar to the present plan.
“We added a fourth sector to the foundation area: Global Issues and Diversity. This is a major theme in general education at state universities and it has been missing in our general education program for quite some time,” Howe told the trustees. That was done with western Kansas college students in mind, Howe said. “We want them to come out of college thinking they’re part of a bigger world.”
The next section of the plan includes introductory coursework in arts and humanities, social sciences, math, pure science and personal well-being. The committee called the natural and physical science courses “pure science” to distinguish them from social sciences.
“Many universities have eliminated the health component from degree plans,” Howe said. Barton’s committee changed health to personal well-being, which can include physical education courses but could also extend to areas such as personal finances.
The final courses are electives and any requirements for a student’s area of interest.
“If you approve this, there’s much to do,” Elaine Simmons, Barton’s vice president of Instruction, told the trustees. Syllabi must be changed and courses will be screened to make sure they are still transferable to four-year colleges.
“It will take 15 to 18 months to do all of the work that needs to be done,” Simmons said. The goal is to be done by April 1, 2020, so the plans will be available to students for the 2020-2021 school year.
Students will benefit from the streamlined degree plans, but the college will lose 7 percent of the revenue it now receives from a student who completes an associate degree with 64 hours. “It is the right thing to do for students wanting to transfer,” Simmons said.
In a follow-up with Howe on Wednesday, the Great Bend Tribune asked what courses will be trimmed from a plan to achieve a 60-hour degree.
“That’s really difficult to answer because you really can’t compare the current general education program to this new one,” he said. “The effect of this plan gives students flexibility so a student can choose more courses in art/humanities, social science or math and pure science, whatever they prefer, and will help them in transfer while still satisfying our general education requirements. With this plan, the student chooses where the ‘decrease’ happens. We have the minimum standards and range of credit hours within the plan so that every student earning an Associate of Science, Associate of Arts or Associate of General Studies is exposed to all the areas of study at least once.”
A ‘clean’ audit
In other business, the board heard a report and approved the audit for Fiscal Year 2019, which ended on June 30. Vickie Dreiling from Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball accounting firm explained some of the highlights of the audit.
“We are giving what is called an unqualified or a ‘clean’ opinion,” Dreiling said.
The college’s total assets were just under $56.5 million, compared to not quite $55 million in 2017. The BCC Foundation’s assets grew to $9.1 million from $8.7 million.
Long-term debt is $10.3 million, down from nearly $10.7 million in 2017. The college paid $405,757 in interest last year.
Mark Dean, vice president of administration, said the debt is on student housing additions, library renovation and an addition to the Technical Building that connects it to the Science and Math Building.
This year there were “no material findings or questioned costs” the auditor was required to disclose under Government Auditing Standards, including financial statements and federal awards. A small finding on the handling of federal program awards last year was cleaned up, Dreiling said.
Barton President Dr. Carl Heilman summed up her report with a question: “So, in terms of financial accountability, Barton does pretty well?” Dreiling agreed.
Heilman said last year’s finding pertained to inappropriate scholarship disbursements and the issue was “corrected thoroughly.”
The BCC Foundation also had a clean audit. All of the college’s funds are audited, including the Cougar Booster Club fund, administrators said.
The board approved the purchase of a 2019 Grech bus at a cost of $255,145. The college’s 2007 International bus was involved in a crash last July and has been out of service since that time. The 2019 Grech has a capacity of 44 passengers. Another option considered was a 2009 MCI bus in good condition with just over 420,000 miles on it, for $215,000.
Meeting at a glance
Here’s a quick look at what happened at Tuesday’s Barton Community College Board of Trustees meeting:
• Charles Perkins, dean of Institutional Effectiveness, provided an update on strategic planning. This included a report on “The Barton Playbook: Improving the College Experience for Student Athletes,” presented by Stephanie Joiner, an English instructor and the college’s athletic mentor.
• Approved the Fiscal Year 2018 audit. Vickie Dreiling, a certified public accountant from Adams, Brown, Beran and Ball, reported that the college received a clean audit for the year ending June 30, 2018.
• Approved a general education proposal presented by Elaine Simmons, vice president of Instruction, and Brian Howe, dean of Academics. Now work will begin to restructure Associate Degrees so they require 60 credit hours, rather than 64.
• Approved hiring Brooke Cook as an administrative assistant on the Barton County campus.
• Approved purchase of a 2019 Grech Motors bus at a cost of $255,145.