The power of an associate degree

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

For the longest time I never really saw the need for an associate degree. I know it’s good for students who have no intention to continue past community college, but I have never been that student.

I spent three years in community college with the intention of transferring. When a counselor suggested I work toward an associate degree, I politely declined because I knew a bachelor’s degree would be more beneficial.

That’s still true, but a recent Senate bill has highlighted how an associate degree can help students.

The Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act, introduced by California State Senator Alex Padilla, passed on Sept. 12. The bill pushes for community colleges to help students obtain associate degrees and transfer to a California State University. The law requires students to be guaranteed admission into their field of study at the CSU of their choice after finishing their associate degree courses, according to the Skyline View, the student newspaper for Skyline College in San Bruno.

If anything, this bill has created more of an incentive for community college students to get an associate degree. Not only will they get admitted into a CSU, but they’ll also be motivated to take more classes that pertain to their major. That is an opportunity I would have loved to take advantage of.

My problem with community college was that under the Intersegment General Education Transfer Curriculum system I was forced to take too many general education courses, leaving no room for extra journalism classes. Without being required to get a journalism associate degree, I didn’t think I needed those courses. Given how many journalism classes I’ve taken at Chico State, it probably could have helped to knock a few of those courses out of the way early.

If I had been working toward an associate degree in journalism, I could have mixed in more classes to help satisfy those units and entered Chico State one step ahead of students who entered straight out of high school.

Also, it turns out having an associate degree carries more weight than I initially realized. Sure, having a bachelor’s or master’s degree is more important, but an associate degree can work as a fallback if any of those plans fall through. If students fail to obtain a bachelor’s degree, they can still secure a high-paying job with an associate degree. Some of these careers include construction managers, criminal investigators and even registered nurses, according to Business Insider. Even if students plan on obtaining a higher degree, it never hurts to have an associate degree.

I was wrong about the importance of an associate degree. It can do a lot more than I initially realized, especially now that the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act has put more students on a proper path to their own career choices.

It’s great to finally see this happening, and it’s something that could have made my community college experience better. I don’t know how many community college students are reading this, but I would advise them to not rule out getting an associate degree. Even if they end up obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s later on, at least they can get closer to obtaining the career they want.


Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.