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The Shape of Four-Year Degrees

Since community colleges in Texas now have more authority to offer bachelor’s degrees in technical fields, the growth of these programs will be interesting to watch. Before a new law was passed in the most recent Regular Session of the Legislature, only a handful of colleges had such permission.

Keep in mind that Coordinating Board approval and other requirements and certifications must still be met, and many community colleges don’t see a need to offer a four-year degree. As you might expect, very small colleges and those with comprehensive universities nearby are less likely to initiate a move in this direction.

Please have a look at this article by Dennis Pearce, in Community College Daily, for a profile of several programs. The piece includes a photo of nursing students at South Texas College.

Controversy about expansion almost always involves concerns about duplicative programs. Take nursing, or instance. Many community colleges have associate degree and certificate nursing programs already, but if a student wants to attain a bachelor’s degree in the field, the individual would need to go to a university, such as Texas Woman’s University, which has large programs in Dallas and Houston. So, if community colleges in the Houston or Dallas areas start to offer new, advanced degrees, you can see the potential for problems.

One factor to keep in mind about nursing is the present nationwide shortage of nurses, especially for graduates at the upper end of training and education. Nurses qualified for supervisory positions are especially in short supply, along with nursing instructors. With nursing, graduates must pass state examinations, which should reduce concerns about rigor and quality with new nursing programs. Finally, one would like to think that nurses (and their patients) would gain from more education in the liberal arts, social sciences, and humanities. Reportedly, medical schools are employing such courses in the training of doctors.

As for fields besides nursing, any turf controversy would depend upon the local situation. Many times for-profit schools are in close proximity to community colleges, for instance. But this situation existed before community colleges started offering bachelor’s degrees.

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