Alexis Patterson Hanes

UT and Austin Community College have agreed to partner in efforts to increase associate degree holders by developing a reverse transfer program that will allow students to combine credits between the institutions.

The reverse transfer program will help students transfer credits completed at ACC to a four-year institution while maintaining eligibility for an associate degree. Students currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at another institution with transferred ACC credits will also able to use past ACC credits toward an associate degree. The program also grants associate degrees to ACC alumni from the past decade if they choose to participate.

Alexis Patterson Hanes, ACC senior public information coordinator, said the partnership will show the value of the associate degree and heighten enrollment rates at the community college level.

“ACC is the largest provider of transfer students to area universities — in fact, more than 400 ACC transfer students enrolled at UT Austin in fall 2012,” Hanes said. “By creating this partnership, we are making it easier for students to earn the credential they deserve.”

Hanes said more than 43,000 students enroll at ACC each semester with about 43 percent of those students planning to transfer to a university. Research shows that students who earn their associate degree are much more likely to complete a four-year degree, Hanes said. 

“If a student’s plans change before they earn their bachelor’s, this ensures they have a marketable college credential,” Hanes said. “This is good for ACC, good for UT Austin, and most importantly, good for our students.

ACC is the only local college accredited to award associate degrees, according to ACC. 

Barbara Mink, UT education professor and ACC Board of Trustees member, said that many people choose to attend community college to complete core coursework before transferring.

“The cost is a lot lower at a community college, class sizes are usually smaller and also most faculty, in transfer courses, will also have doctorate degrees.” Mink said. “It’s a good strategy for people who want a quality education and who want to save money to go to a community college and get that two-year degree first.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fastest-growing working credential is an associate degree. 

“Reverse transfer is an important step in our continued commitment to improve student success,” said UT President William Powers Jr. “Anything we can do to encourage undergraduate success and completion needs to be in the mix. Earning an associate degree will help keep our transfer students on track to complete their next important educational milestone — their bachelor’s degree.”

Students at the Austin Community College-Rio Grande campus were likely surprised to find police investigating and searching the campus at roughly 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

Someone called a bomb threat into the campus shortly before classes began. Police arrived soon after and a few roads were blocked, preventing convenient access to the campus, but students were still attending classes.

Kyle Heine, an ACC-Rio Grande student, said he did not receive a text notification from the emergency alert system he subscribes to or any email regarding the matter. 

“All the classes were still going on, no one was removed from the buildings,” Heine said. ”When I was there, all of the students were still in class.”

ACC spokeswoman Alexis Patterson Hanes said the campus sent out text notifications to its students. Hanes said ACC district police and the Austin Police Department responded immediately to the threat. 

“Our authorities quickly determined that there was no bomb and we received the all clear,” Hanes said. “We’re continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding what was found.” 

ACC’s bomb threat came after a shooting at Lone Star College in Houston where three people were wounded. Hanes said ACC always reacts to these kinds of situations seriously. 

“We always evaluate our safety policies and procedures to make sure that we’re following best practices and doing everything that we can to keep our students and employees safe,” Hanes said.

In September, UT students evacuated campus and the University canceled classes for the day after receiving a bomb threat.