Community Colleges Can Now Offer Applied Bachelor’s Degrees
An Oregon Senate bill that was signed into law July 1 was recently formalized at a signing ceremony in Salem with Gov. Kate Brown and representatives from Klamath Community College and Chemeketa Community College.
Senate Bill 3 permits community colleges to offer applied baccalaureate degree programs under specified conditions and upon receiving approval from Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The signing ceremony for SB 3 took place at the Oregon Capitol on Nov. 19.
The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez explained that the purpose of the law is not to compete with four-year institutions, but to allow community colleges to help fill deficits in workforce training. He said KCC is in the process of developing curriculum for an Applied Bachelor of Nursing.
“This is an exciting time for us, as KCC and Chemeketa may be among the first community colleges in Oregon to offer a baccalaureate degree,” Gutierrez said. “Offering our community this opportunity assures we can meet our region’s health care needs now and into the future.”
According to Marie Hulett, executive director of institutional advancement at CCC, the Salem-based institution hopes to offer applied bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, nursing, human services, and business management. Some programs could start as early as fall 2021.
KCC and Chemeketa first presented the applied bachelor’s concept to lawmakers in 2016 in an effort to expand urban and rural degree offerings to address workforce shortages in fields such as nursing and early childhood education.
“I appreciate the work of past Chemeketa President Julie Huckestein, who spearheaded this effort in Salem,” Gutierrez said. “Julie was instrumental in building the legislative support needed to allow Oregon’s community colleges to address industry needs through education, and this initiative may not have come to fruition if not for her strong leadership.”
Under the bill, Oregon’s community colleges that wish to establish an applied bachelor’s program must submit program information and documentation to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to qualify for approval.
“Senate Bill 3 will help expand opportunities for students in higher education across Oregon. Technical baccalaureate degrees provide excellence in vocational education for increasing needs of industry. It was good to have the support of Dr. Gutierrez and others on this bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. E. Werner Reschke (R-Klamath Falls), who co-sponsored the bill.
Nationwide, 24 states allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees. Common applied baccalaureate degree areas are applied science, business, education, and technical fields.
“Entering new nurses into the profession with, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, provides the foundation to meet future workforce needs,” said KCC Nursing Program Administrator Allison Sansom.