From Me to You: Foundation Question for TASA

The Texas Association of Schools of Art was initially formed in 1968 as a response to a request from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) for the visual arts departments in Texas to meet, discuss, and compromise on an agreement for the transfer of credits between the 2-year, 4-year, public and private institutions. An agreement was reached and adopted on December 1, 1972 . It was reviewed and updated January 29,1982 , and again revised by the TASA membership in April 2000. (See TASA web site for this revised edition).

At the TASA Business Meeting during the April Conference in 2003, I raised a concern that in spite of the agreement, i.e., the TASA Transfer Curriculum, a large number of the upper level institutions are in fact not accepting the listed courses except as electives toward the BA, BS or BFA degree requiring a student to repeat courses listed in the Transfer Curriculum. I raised the idea of a Field of Study similar to the one already in effect for Music.

A Field of Study (FOS) allows a student to pursue a series of major courses, up to 36 hours at the lower level, in pursuit of an Associate degree. The FOS process is an extensive endeavor under the auspices of the THECB that involves a committee from upper and lower level institutions that compromise and reach a concensus of courses deemed acceptable for transfer from a lower level/two-year institution towards an upper level/four-year degree. Under the FOS for Music, for example, some of the academic courses can be postponed until the upper level so that the student can complete the FOS major courses and stay within the maximum number of completed hours (64) needed for the AA or AS. A 2-year institution that has adopted the FOS assures the student (and perhaps the parents) that the recommended sequence of courses is appropriate preparation (in music) and WILL transfer to an upper level institution towards the bachelor's degree. The FOS provides the student with the appropriate preparation (36 hours in major) to be able to compete and pass auditions upon entering the junior level.

At the TASA 2004 Conference in Corpus Christi, Dr. Catherine Personault, Upper-level liaison for the THECB spoke to the TASA membership at the Annual Business Meeting about the FOS and other curriculum issues. In a nutshell, she explained that the number of students enrolled in the visual arts in Texas is not great enough to warrant the expense and efforts of the THECB, at this time, to instigate a FOS in Art. So long as the TASA Transfer Curriculum remains the guideline for transfer in the visual arts, an FOS for visual arts probably will not be pursued.

Questioning myself as to what I meant in my original concern to the TASA membership about "a large number of the upper level institutions are in fact not accepting the listed courses." I attempted to determine which courses ARE in fact taught at freshman and sophomore levels at both 2-year and 4-year institutions in Texas. With the guidance of Dr. James Goeman, Lower-level institutional liaison for the THECB, I accessed the Texas Common Course Numbering System On-Line Matrix for 2004-2005 which is based on the freshman and sophomore level courses as they appear in the institution catalogues and presented a Summary to the TASA Board of Directors at the fall meeting. Below is a chart showing the results of the final summary.

At the foundation level, it seems that the total number of 2-year institutions are showing about 75% more Art courses taught at the freshman and sophomore foundation in their catalogues than the 4-year institutions. It is understood, for both 2-year and 4-year, that not all courses shown in the catalogue are taught every semester and that institutions with multiple campuses may not teach the listed courses at all sites. Ten of the twelve (1...12) most offered courses are the same courses for both levels except for Painting II and Life Drawing I (lower level) and Photography I (upper level) although not in the same hierarchy.

The question that came up first at the Fall Board meeting concerning any reevaluation of the TASA Recommended Transfer Courses was "what's in it for the four-year schools to do it "( transfer more courses from the lower level)? My lame answer was "so that we (the 2-year schools) will send you students?" Response: "You're already doing that..." The REAL answer, the only one I could come up with - after mowing a couple of acres the next day - is that "for the student, its the right thing to do."

Please know that what I am about to say is personal, not part of any committee nor the TASA Board.

I am looking at the escalating costs for upper-level education, which for more and more students, is becoming less and less affordable - mostly for the middle class - too poor to afford to transfer and too well off to qualify for Pell Grants. BA, BS and BFA degrees require 124-139 hours to complete. An Associate degree is limited by the THECB to have not more than 62-64 hours. If an Associate degree is completed, the receiving transfer institution MUST accept all of the hours from the lower-level school but not necessarily to be applied to the upper level degree. In my opinion, a student who has successfully completed (B or better) a foundation art course should not be required to repeat the course - PAY AGAIN and DO THE WORK AGAIN. In spite of the lip service to the TASA guidelines for transferring course credits, the REAL question then becomes: what is a foundation course?

The Core (general studies) consists of 42 hours (with an impending additional 4 hours for a computer component, at least on our campus), leaving a total of 18-22 hours for major courses and/or electives. The 18-22 hours is, in the BIG scheme of totals, about two-fifths of the total Art hours required for a BFA. For example: at UNT, a major in Photography requires a total of 63 Art hours (including 24 hrs. advanced major courses + 6 hrs advanced minor courses). Eleven three-hour courses or thirty-three hours of Art is suggested by UNT for the freshman and sophomore years (foundation?).

The following question circles back to THE question "what's in it for us" which is: "why are the upper-level institutions so threatened by the 24 hours that might be transferred in from a 2-year institution?"

Possible responses from the 4-year Art departments: the instructors at the 2-year courses are not as qualified as "ours" to teach the foundation courses. My response: SACS has taken care of the masters-level credential (or equivalent) question for the past ten years. Even all adjuncts have to have a master level degree with a minimum of 18 graduate hours in the taught field. (I would venture to guess that the majority of those 2-year instructors, especially full-time, have a MA or MFA from YOUR institution.) How many mastered faculty do the upper-level schools have teaching in art? How many of the faculty in Design Communications has a MA or MFA or do they have equivalent credentials? How many of the foundation courses are taught by Graduate TAs? How many of YOUR MA & MFA graduates are teaching at 2-year colleges? Are they teaching there because they are not as "good" or because that's where there was a job?

Another statement I've heard from the upper level schools: "The instruction is not as stringent as at our institution."
My response: The 2-year schools are SO directed, from the THECB down through the deans, to comply with very rigid standards for goals, objectives, competencies, etc. as well as student performance. The faculty that I know at the 2-year colleges usually teach not three, but five classes each semester, as well as performing institutional work such as committees, organization sponsors, etc. They are FULLY immersed in the foundation level to make sure the student (with increasingly varied skills and competencies) gets the BEST possible foundation preparation so that they WILL be able to compete and hold their own at the upper level. How many of your experienced faculty teaches foundation classes? Like you, not ALL of our students are GOOD or able to complete the course of study with a B or better. BUT the ones that DO complete at a two-year school are more likely to finish their bachelor degree than native students. (See excerpt below from the THECB's report on Transfer of Credit . *)

Back to the initial question: "what's in it for us?" Because it's the right thing to do. Its only fair that a student that has very often come from a non-college background, that has more often than not, had to work full-time, often supporting a family, that has to learn how to be college student, but somehow manages to make those A and Bs, finishes their associate degree and still has the focus and determination to go on and do what has to be done to get a bachelor degree - should NOT have to repeat (time, effort and money) a course that is generally accepted as a foundation course.

There must be a way that both the lower and upper-level art departments can put aside their personal biases and expectations to come to an honest agreement about what ARE the "foundation courses."

A quote from the Transfer of Credit report: (my emphasis.)

"Transfer of credits between institutions is generally efficient. This is indicated by the fact that most credit transfers. A large majority of credit that does not transfer or is not accepted as applicable to a particular degree program is denied for relatively few reasons: the course was a developmental course; the student received a low grade; the course was a "technical" course and would not apply to an "academic" major. While there is no broad, systemic problem, certain aspects of transfer could be improved. Two areas that suggest further study are 1) issues stemming from the assignment of individual courses to upper- or lower-division level, and 2) the distinctions drawn between "technical" and "academic" courses and the effect those distinctions have on transfer. Initial analyses of incomplete data indicate that certain academic fields may be more likely to generate transfer problems than others. The Data Subcommittee recommends that further attention be given to that issue and that any fields so identified be given priority for the development of Fields of Study curricula.

In lieu of a FOS, the TASA Transfer Curriculum is THE document representing the appropriate courses that SHOULD be taken during the freshman and sophomore levels in preparation for the successful involvement and completion of an upper-level course of study and degree.

My final question: does TASA member institutions REALLY have a common foundation? If so, what is it and is it time to rethink an honest revision of the TASA Transfer Curriculum . End of soapbox.

Cathie Tyler, Spring 2005

* ".over a period of five years from 1995 to 1999, the percentage of baccalaureate graduates who transferred from public two-year colleges in Texas has been greater than the percentage of two-year college transfer students in the public university student population. In 1995, for example, 24.2 percent of the public university undergraduate student population consisted of students who transferred from the two-year public colleges after taking 30 or more semester credit hours (SCH) at public two-year institutions. In the same year, 27.9 percent of the baccalaureate graduates transferred from the public two-year colleges. The data encompasses all public colleges and universities and has remained steady for five years. The trend is seen in most of the universities in the state." (THECB report: Transfer of Credit , page 22)