At the urging of President Dan Shipp, the Kansas Board of Regents authorized Pittsburg State University to automatically award Associate of Arts degrees in General Studies to students once they’ve met the requirements of the degree. Pitt State will be the first university in Kansas to do so.
“We are designing a culture of success for students that values their achievements and experiences. Students come first at Pitt State — full stop. Our faculty and staff are designing a new model that will encourage students to stack their achievements as they pursue future personal and professional goals,” said Shipp. “This is a major milestone in the design work that will help motivate students to persist in their education. Also, it adds a lot of context and value to their overall college experience.”
This is especially meaningful to those working toward a Bachelor’s degree but who stop out — a key factor in Pitt State’s proposal to the board.
“In the two semesters of listening to about 700 students in focus groups and meeting with alumni at Gorilla Gatherings, we have talked about the idea of ‘hope for the future’ that comes with completing a degree,” said Shipp.
Sometimes though, life gets in the way.
“For a variety of reasons, students have to stop out. If they pause their pursuit of a four-year degree after earning the 60 hours required for an Associate’s, they leave with an achievement — and that increases their opportunity in the workforce and their lifetime earning potential,” Shipp said. “We are protecting their investment of time and treasure.”
In the past four years, Pitt State has had nearly 600 students with hours for such a degree, and those degrees will be retroactively awarded in the coming year.
“We believe it will motivate students, when the time is right, to continue and earn their Bachelor’s degree,” said Provost Howard Smith. “It gives them a solid, simple starting point when they return, or is something they can take with them if they need to alter their current life plans.”
And if they don’t? That’s ok, too.
“We hope they return, but if they earned the Associate’s degree, they should be awarded the degree,” said Smith. “This is good for them and their families, and good for Kansas. There will be many more future employees with earned credentials living and working in the state.”
The move is endorsed by the National Institute of Student Success; at a time when retention is challenging at universities across the nation, it’s thought to be a strategy that will improve persistence.
“This, along with other stackable credentials we’re planning, will mean students get two degrees and limitless opportunity for the price of one bachelor’s degree at Pitt State,” said Shipp. “Our intent is for our students at Pitt State to have the most valuable higher education experience in the country.”
The initiative will be implemented in Fall 2023.