Alamo Colleges may offer bachelor’s degrees

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American Sign Language and fire science are potential programs.

By Katherine Garcia

The Alamo Colleges is considering offering bachelor’s degrees in fire science and American Sign Language at this college, Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of student success, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, three community colleges in Texas currently offer bachelor’s degrees: Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, South Texas College in McAllen and Midland College in Midland.

All institutions started by offering a Bachelor of Applied Technology and major in technology management in 2004, and Brazosport offered a major in computer technology.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended to the Texas Legislature during the 83rd legislative session that more community colleges be allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees after researching the benefits the degrees have on the local workforce. The bill was passed June 14.

Fabianke said the Alamo Colleges has expressed a desire to the state to offer programs such as fire science and American Sign Language, both of which are offered at this college. Students may take core classes at other colleges and then finish the degree at this college.

The Alamo Colleges can offer a four-year degree in an area where a workforce need is determined and no other colleges in the area offer the degree.

A lot of planning is required to offer the degrees, including making sure of the teaching qualifications current professors need to be able to teach classes for bachelor’s degrees, Fabianke said.

Several years ago, Chancellor Bruce Leslie contacted other Alamo Colleges and state officials to explore the opportunity, she said.

Fabianke said the possibility was not feasible in the past because of a lack of support for the initiative, but the student success committee of the board of trustees discussed the issue Aug. 12.

The presentation can be found in the district website in the agenda, “Attachment: THECB Success Point Implementation to Success Council 7/8/14.”

More extensive plans of action from the regular board meeting can be found online at the district’s website, in agendas under “E. Presentation on 2015 Legislative Agenda” of “11. Chancellor’s Report.”

According to the 83rd Texas Legislature summary, the proposed Senate Bill 414 requires the coordinating board to “conduct a study of regional workforce needs in Texas to determine the regions of the state that would benefit from authorization of baccalaureate degree programs in the field of nursing and the field of applied life sciences at public community colleges.”

“The board (of trustees) approved a legislative priority that states the development process by which colleges who demonstrate need can offer degrees to students,” said Leo Zuniga, vice chancellor of communications for the district.

According to the legislative session summary, the district would have to cancel any articulation agreements after five years of approval. This means if this college were to offer fire science or American Sign Language bachelor’s degrees, courses for those programs can’t be transferred to a four-year college because the degree would be offered here instead.

According to Senate Bill 215, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board must approve all baccalaureate degree proposals except engineering degrees.

“The Alamo Colleges will be ready to offer testimony if needed in favor of a four-year degree at the Alamo Colleges,” said Leo Zuniga, vice chancellor of communications for the district.


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