What the Heck is an “Upside Down” Degree?

Students who gained the Associate degree at a local community college took one of two paths:

– Transfer Path to a 4-year College. At the Community College, students took General Education courses and a few lower division major classes and would transfer into the local state college as a Junior.
– Career Path to a Job. These Associate degrees would help gain a job after graduation. Some of these majors that led to employment were-electronics, computer repair, automotive mechanic, administrative assistant. The college counselors stressed that these associate degrees were not easily transferable.

Two changes have happened to allow students with a Career Track Associate (Associate of Applied Science, Associate of Applied Technology, or non-transferable AA or AS degrees) to move on and gain a Bachelor’s degree without losing all their credits.

1) Private universities (especially For-Profit schools) allow students to transfer more of the AAS and other non-transferable degrees without losing most of their credits. Even though these private schools are more expensive, the students see that it will take a much shorter time to gain the Bachelor’s degree.
2) Some State Legislatures began researching the need for Community College to offer Bachelor degrees. This was rejected by the State Colleges who feared a huge loss of students.

So the local state colleges began making compromises. One compromise was adding the Bachelor of Applied Science or Bachelor of Applied Technology. Students with the AAS or another non-transferable Associate degree now had a way to transfer the Associate degree “as a whole” and would come into the state college as a Junior. The term “Upside Down Degree” was used to show that the Major was at the community college or lower division level and the General Education would be taught at the State College or upper division level.

Recently, more compromises have been proposed. A few states are offering the 90-30 Program. The first 90 credits (usually the first 3 years) are taught at the community college, with only one year at the more expensive state university. All these changes have reduced costs of attending state colleges.

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