Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Center for the Advancement of Education


The purpose of this study was to determine the utility of the associate degrees awarded to graduates of Gulf Coast Community College (GCCC). The paper first established a reference for the study by reviewing the history, of associate degrees in the United States and those factors that influenced the use and the value of those degrees to students graduating from two-year institutions. A background investigation of four factors that affect the viability of associate degrees and the transfer efforts of students from the two-year to the four-year institutions at both the national and the state of Florida levels was included in the study. The four factors were: (1) an ongoing conflict between the liberal arts and the practical arts advocates, (2) the political and/or legislative inputs into the programs. curriculum, and awarding of the degrees, (3) the desires of the students, and (4) the driving needs of business and industry. The background review also included a statistical analysis of the GCCC graduates. and a comparison of the results with a similar statistical analysis of their peers throughout the state of Florida. The comparison demonstrated the validity of using GCCC students, statistics, and studies as a basis for statewide conclusions and recommendations The analysis focused on a ten year (1979 - 1988) statistical examination of those students who transferred from GCCC into one of the nine public four-year institutions in Florida. The investigation also included a survey of all students who transferred from GCCC in a period that started following completion of their studies in the spring semester in 1986 and concluded after the completion of the summer sessions in 1988. A transfer student was considered to be a student who had successfully completed a minimum of twelve credit hours at GCCC. The survey also was limited to those ex-GCCC students who had completed, at a minimum. one semester of classes in the upper-level institution. This particular group of students was selected because of the currentness of the students' information and possible inputs. The survey not only reviewed the associate degree, or lack of same, and the follow-on baccalaureate degrees, but in addition, emphasis was placed on the acceptability of courses taken at GCCC and the courses not taken at GCCC but required in the program of the student's choice at the four-year institution. Survey responses were received from 337 of the 506 students who met the transfer student criteria. Based on the results of the literature review and the survey responses it was found that: (1) of those students at GCCC who stated their goal was to earn an AA the designated transfer degree, approximately ten percent were successful. six to seven percent subsequently transferred into the upper-level state university system (SUS) in Florida, and two to three percent earned a baccalaureate degree, (2) of those students who indicated a goal of earning an AS degree, only approximately seven percent were successful, (3) GCCC students transferred into the upper-division SUS institutions with either an AA. an AS. or without an associate degree: however, there was an appreciable decline in the number of AS transfer students during the time period studied, (4) a considerable number of students who transferred from GCCC encountered transfer problems as a result of improper or incomplete advising and program incompatibilities. Considering the fact the study determined that: (1) students transferred to an upper-division institution with or without a transfer oriented degree, and (2) the number of problems encountered by the transferring AA students because of program advising and improper lower-division course selections, it was concluded that in the evaluation of the utility of the associate degree awarded students from GCCC that the course content of the degree was of equal if not greater importance than the designation. In order to improve the effectiveness it was recommended that: (1) GCCC review current advising policies to insure that those divisions in which the professional expertise and program competence exist are involved in course development and the advising process of students in those programs, (2) general education programs at GCCC should be reviewed and aligned more closely with both state and upper-division requirements, (3) GCC should initiate an annual student survey program using a survey similar to the one in this study to keep abreast of transfer problems so that timely changes can be implemented when necessary, (4) the Student On-line Advisement and Articulation (SOLAR) System should be widely publicized at GCCC, (5) the State Board of Education and the Board of Regents are urged to expedite the completion of the SOLAR system throughout Florida, and (6) the Florida Division of Community Colleges acting in concert with the Governor's Postsecondary Educational Planning Commission (PEPC) should consider designating the AS degree as a transfer degree in addition to the AA degree, and the AAS and AAA degrees also be designated as occupational degrees in Florida.

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