DALLAS (AP) — Some Texas community colleges are expanding their curriculums to offer bachelor's degrees and help meet the increased need for nurses and teachers.
The 2017 Legislature approved letting community colleges offer bachelor's degrees in high-need areas like applied sciences, applied technology and nursing, The Dallas Morning News reports .
Until now, few Texas community colleges — traditionally two-year schools — have had state approval to offer four-year bachelor's programs. Most have been in rural areas with limited access to higher education.
Community colleges must get approval from an accrediting body, plus the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, to offer bachelor's degrees.
Collin College officials hope to have a four-year nursing degree program running by 2019. The Dallas County Community College District plans to offer an early childhood education degree, according to the newspaper.
Collin College already offers an associate's degree in nursing, providing a pathway to become a registered nurse.
Donna Hatch, dean of nursing at Collin College, said about 90 percent of her students go on to earn bachelor's degrees through partnerships with other universities. Offering a bachelor's through Collin College could mean significant savings for students, she said; tuition is about $42 per semester hour there, compared with other schools' costs that can top $200.
"Being able to earn a bachelor's for under $10,000, to me, is huge and will attract many to the field," she said.
DCCCD Chancellor Joe May said he's been told by area superintendents that they can't find enough quality educators with strong pre-kindergarten teaching backgrounds. The area is about 4,350 teachers short, he said.
"This is such a critical area that if we don't get this right, nothing is going to come out right in terms of their educational and career opportunities," May said.
Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com