Auto tech students: no chance to speak out for 4-year degree

Samantha Lopez, Staff Writer

De Anza college auto tech students are disappointed the program was not considered for a pilot study of four-year community college degrees.

Xavier Silva, 26, and Venkat Apparao, 22, both auto tech majors attended the California Community College board meeting at De Anza Nov. 17, 2014 but never got a chance to speak.

The item before the bachelor degree program on the meeting agenda was City College of San Francisco fighting to stay in business. That issue took so much time and patience from the board of governors that when representatives from CCSF were finished, the meeting ended 30 minutes early.

Apparao and Silva did not get a chance to express their concerns to the board of governors.

“There was no clarity about what we could do as students to be able to protest or make any changes,” Silva said. “It seemed like it had gotten so far that we actually had no more power to overturn this. It was almost as if the decision was made way before we even found out about this opportunity.

By enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program as a community college, students would save money in tuition and be given chances to pursue other educational avenues that would not be possible with a two-year degree.

With strong community outreach relationships and higher career opportunities than institutes such as Wyco, Silva and Apparao said De Anza auto tech program deserved an opportunity.

For many De Anza students, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in auto tech means completing general education requirements at De Anza then transferring to a four-year college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. The closest university with a bachelor’s degree in automotive tech is Idaho State University.

Under the pilot program, the community college chosen Jan 20 to offer a four-year auto tech degree was Rio Hondo College in Whittier.

Also among the 15 colleges chosen to pilot a four-year degree program was Foothill Community College in Los Altos, offering a degree in dental hygiene.

Silva said that over all he felt frustrated and disappointed that there were so many unclear actions, none of which allowed the students to be heard by college decision makers.

“I am married, I can’t really move when my family is situated here,” Silva said. “And there’s a lot of people in this situation, where they come back to get an education in automotive technology, but are limited to getting an associates degree.”

Apparao said many workers in the field cannot advance because they don’t have a bachelor’s degree in auto tech.

“The job requirements are increasing,” he said. “Mechanics now need higher education because car mechanisms are only getting [more] complex.”

Why De Anza’s auto tech program was not considered for the four-year degree program is still unknown, and auto tech students are left with questions, demanding an explanation.