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Bachelor Degree Plan Not Popular with Abilene Colleges

04/28/17, 09:47:33 AM

ABILENE—Leaders of the Big Country's three community colleges aren't in favor of legislation being discussed in Austin that would make it easier for their schools to offer bachelor degrees.

Thad Anglin, president of Cisco College, and both Western Texas College's Barbara Beebe and Ranger College's William Campion expressed their lack of enthusiasm for the more than a dozen bills in various stages in Austin.

"I am against it," Beebe said in an email last week. "I do not believe it supports the mission of community colleges to offer bachelor degrees. As we do not want the four-year colleges and universities to delve into dual credit offerings to the high schools we serve, we should not be offering bachelor degree programs to the students they serve."

Beebe said Western Texas College, as a whole, doesn't have the money available to pursue these degree options even if the legislature should agree on some form of  streamlining the application process community colleges must complete before offering these options.

Currently, only four community colleges –South Texas College, Midland College, Tyler Junior College and Brazosport College –have received approval to offer four-year degrees.

According to a report by the Texas Tribune in early April, there's more of an appetite for this change in the legislature than ever before.

Bills were introduced in both the House and Senate higher education committees this past winter. Supporters say these bills would increase degreed workers in the state and help ease shortages in several fields like nursing and early childhood education, the Tribune reported.

Anglin recognized these shortages, especially in the nursing field where Cisco has agreements with multiple four-year institutions in the Abilene area.

Texas Tech University Health Science Center and Hardin-Simmons University nursing programs both benefit from Cisco students transferring into their programs after completing Cisco's courses.

Nurses are aging out of the system with retirements, leaving holes, Anglin said, that need to be filled. His school is not the correct option to do this, he said.

Instead, Anglin said he'll advocate developing and strengthening partnerships with the universities.

"We're not moving in the (bachelor degree) direction at this time," he said. "It's something we'll carefully evaluate and will continue to evaluate, but we really see an opportunity to establish and grow our partnerships with our university partners. I believe the benefit of this is it brings everyone to the table."

If Ranger College were to consider expanding its offerings, Campion said in an email the first one the school might consider would be early childhood education.

But even then, he said, that would be long-term, not something that would happen after any legislation makes it easier for colleges to apply.

"Ranger College is not planning to implement any of these programs just now," Campion's email said. "Texas enjoys a plethora of upper division opportunities for students completing very specialized two-year programs. Perhaps the first four-year program Ranger College would consider would be early childhood as the state has ample money for these programs and a distinct shortage of students completing four-year programs. While this might be a consideration down the line, Ranger College does not see any four-year programs in our immediate future."

by Timothy Chipp, Abilene Reporter News

Reprinted with permission from the Abilene Reporter News, Abilene, Texas.

To view the original story click HERE.