Bachelor’s degree not likely to come to AC

Photo by Pamela Harris

Despite issued challenge from Governor Rick Perry, bachelor program at AC very unlikely

By Kathryn Strong

Gov. Rick Perry issued a challenge to universities to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree with textbooks included.

Some education leaders believe it can be done at community colleges.

Community colleges in 17 states offer bachelor’s degrees, including Texas.

Florida leads the way with 14 community colleges authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees.

South Texas, Brazosport and Midland colleges offer bachelor of applied technology degrees.

The degrees are designed for students who have associate of applied science degrees. The technical degree often doesn’t transfer to universities.

Amarillo College has looked into offering bachelor’s degrees but has no plans to pursue it, said Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, vice president of academic affairs.

“It is not true to AC’s mission as a community college,” Lowery-Hart said. “It is important to build the current programs offered at AC, such as the teaching and nursing programs.”

Supporters of community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees say there are many financial benefits.

Adjunct professors who are hired are less expensive to pay than tenured faculty. The lack of sports, dormitories and recreation centers helps keep costs lower than at four-year universities.

“I would be so happy,” said Sierra Woods, a hygiene major. “I know it would be cheaper at a community college.”

It can be an option for the growing demand of older students who want a fast and cheap degree.

“It would be more convenient,” said Jason Bray, an industrial maintenance major.

“It would be a hassle trying to schedule driving to WT with my current responsibilities.”

Opponents of the trend worry that community colleges will suffer from “mission creep” which distracts them from their traditional mission. Community colleges offer two-year degrees and prepare students for transfer to four-year schools.

There is a pattern in American higher education of community colleges that offer baccalaureate degrees changing into four-year institutions.

“We have strong university partnerships,” Lowery-Hart said. “There is no community need to create programs that are offered at WT or Tech.”

Another concern is that the more bachelor degrees a community college offers, the higher the tuition will become. “Creating new programs would be a financial drain on AC and the community,” Lowery-Hart said.

Some educators say there is an educational hierarchy between the research mission of universities, the teaching mission of colleges and open admissions for community colleges.


Originally published: Thursday, September 15, 2011

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