Alma College attracts students by guaranteeing them the Alma Commitment. This includes the Alma Venture as well as academic & career guidance, but also an on-time graduation.
The on-time graduation promises that if you follow your track but do not graduate in four years the college will cover your tuition for an additional term. Students majoring in education, nursing and others instead get a four and a half year graduation commitment.
Education majors are a large factor in this group. “The usual time for most certificationtrack Education students is four years of courses and one term of student teaching,” said Peggy Thelen, professor of education. “We have exceptions including endorsements in Music Education and Special Education.”
Thelen went on to explain that while it is possible for education majors to graduate in four years there are factors that could get in the way of that. “Graduation timeliness also depends on the number of majors and or minors that a student carries…a lot of factors.”
Multiple majors or minors could complicate student schedules. This makes it harder for them to graduate in four years like most students. “All education majors are expected to graduate in four and a half years, the extra half year being student teaching,” said Marisa Romano (‘19), an education major. “It’s not impossible to graduate in four years, and some students choose to do that.
“To get a degree in music education requires a lot more courses and ensemble credits than other teaching degrees,” she said. “At other schools it’s very common to have music education students graduate in five or more years; I’ve even heard of people taking seven years.
“I think it’s unusual and stressful to be expected to be done with my classes and distributive requirements in only four years,” she said.
Romano wishes the college would guarantee students with majors such as these the chance to graduate on time without the threat of losing scholarships. “If I hadn’t taken several courses at [a] community college over the summers I would not graduate on time, and I was told I would lose most of my scholarships if I stayed at Alma past the four and a half years.”
Thelen also commented that students would like to have their scholarships and student aid stay with them through student teaching and graduation.
“I have taken 17 or 18 credits every semester I have been at Alma and I’ll still have to take one class online this summer,” said Jared Fleming (‘19). “There is no room for error or exploration if you’re an education major at Alma.”
Fleming likes how the Alma Commitment pushes you into the real world faster and decreases costs for students. However, he feels that education majors get a limited liberal education experience due to the strict course schedules they must adhere to.
The Alma Commitment also has some limitations, according to Romano. “I only know of one [student] who had her semester covered by the school…her advisor failed to tell her that one of her required courses was only offered every other year, so she got money from the school because it was the school’s fault,” she said.
“The problem with education [majors] is that they have to deal with what the state does because we are on a certification track and they’re just doing what the state outlines,” said Rachel Frisbie (‘19). I don’t know if there’s anything Alma can do to help solve those problems, but it would be nice to get some extra assistance. That extra semester is a lot to do.”