The Associate of Arts (AA) in General Studies is considered the flagship degree program at Missouri State University-West Plains for many reasons. First and foremost, it allows area students to complete their general education requirements close to home before transferring to Missouri State University-Springfield or another institution to complete a bachelor’s degree.
“When we go to events like High School Extravaganzas and Red Carpet Days, we really push the transferability aspect of the degree,” said Judy Carr, associate professor of psychology/sociology.
But there are other advantages to the AA-General Studies degree besides its transferability.
“A lot of people ask the question, ‘Why do I need the 60-hour degree?’” Carr said. “Because colleges will accept the degree as your first two years of college. You may still have to take some prerequisite courses within your major, but they will not pick apart your degree; you will start there as a junior.”
The AA-General Studies also provides a great opportunity for students who are undecided on their majors to explore subject areas.
“As an academic adviser, I often hear students say they want to complete the AA in General Studies here so they can get the ‘basics’ done before moving on to their chosen major at a four-year institution,” said Cindy Bridges, coordinator of the Advisement and Academic Coaching Center for Empowering Student Success (AACCESS). “While it is true the AA in General Studies is designed as a transfer degree and for students to complete the general education requirement for most bachelor degrees, the program offers more than just the basics. Students will find they have many more courses and topics from which to choose to complete areas of the degree, such as the humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and public issues, to name a few.”
The degree requires 12 credit hours of elective courses, which gives students the ability to explore those topics.
“Electives can provide an opportunity for students to ‘try out’ various areas of study to see what sparks their interests,” Bridges said. “Alternatively, students who have determined the major they plan to pursue may be able to take courses toward that chosen major and also fulfill the needed elective hours. While the AA in General Studies does transfer to Missouri State’s Springfield campus as meeting the general education requirement, it also transfers well to many other four-year institutions. We do advise students to check with the receiving institution to see how specific courses will transfer toward their selected major.
“Whether students choose to begin their college education journey with Missouri State-West Plains then transfer to Missouri State University’s Springfield campus or another institution, or stay in West Plains to complete a bachelor or higher-level degree through Missouri State’s Outreach programs, they will be off to a strong start with the AA in General Studies,” Bridges added.
Affordability is another reason to start at Missouri State-West Plains. Tuition rates are well below the state average for two-year public institutions – $3,880 per academic year compared to $4,691 (out-of-district costs) – and even greater when compared to four-year public institutions, which average $7,860 per year. And, thanks to the many financial aid opportunities available at Missouri State-West Plains, which range from the A+ Program to Pell Grants, in addition to many institutionally and privately funded scholarships, the already low costs can be even further offset.
Nikki Rieken, formerly of Ava, chose to pursue the AA-General Studies at Missouri State-West Plains because, as she puts it, it “was exactly what I needed.
“After high school, I didn’t know what career path I wanted to pursue. Missouri State-West Plains gave me the chance to take classes in multiple subject areas and find what I was passionate about,” Rieken said.
Because of that opportunity, she discovered she was passionate about business and law. “My degree transferred easily to the University of Missouri, and I was able to hit the ground running and was not behind any other students as I pursued my business degree.”
Rieken is currently finishing her first year in law school at the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth. “Missouri State-West Plains prepared me for my future classes at the University of Missouri and at Texas A&M,” she said.
Tori York, Highlandville, also used her time at Missouri State-West Plains to decide what she ultimately wanted to do. She developed a passion for English and psychology, and took every class she could in those areas.
“What was beneficial to me about my degree program was that it was incredibly flexible,” she said. “Rather than get my AA in Teaching or something else, I could do a bunch of electives to kind of feel out what I wanted to do, but they were still counting towards my degree. I came to West Plains unsure of my career path, and the first year of classes I took many electives to figure out what I didn’t want to do. By the end, I knew I wanted to pursue a bachelor’s in English education.”
York will graduate with her Bachelor of Science in English Education in May and will begin a master’s program for secondary school counseling this summer. She credits her work at Missouri State-West Plains for putting her on the right career path.
“Missouri State-West Plains and the classes there helped me not only figure out where I wanted to go, but they also got me there with the sizes, the staff, and the rigor levels,” she explained.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information about the Associate of Arts in General Studies degree, click here for a list of course requirements, or contact the admissions office at 417-255-7955 or toll-free at 888-466-7899. You also can request information via email at WPAdmissions@MissouriState.edu, or visit in person at Cass Hall, 128 Garfield Ave.