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New degrees aim to meet local demand

Posted on September 10, 2018

by Ruth Campbell

By the spring of 2019, it should be possible for Odessa College students for the first time to enroll in two four-year degree programs — a bachelor of arts of applied sciences in automation and a BAAS in leadership and management.

Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones said the first possible time they could be offered is January 2019.

Following approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the next step in the approval process is submitting an application for review to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This is the sanctioning body which provides accreditation to Odessa College.

Once approval is received from SACSCOC, planning and scheduling of course work and classes can move forward, a news release said.

Jones said notification from the Southern Association of Colleges is expected in December.

“We really feel like it’s a critical part of our contribution to the 60 by 30 Texas initiative that all of Texas has committed to ensuring that 60 percent of Texans between the ages of 25 and 34 have a postsecondary credential,” Jones said.

“In our area, the baccalaureate attainment rate is somewhere between 13 and 16 percent, depending on which lines you’re looking at and that’s a far cry from what our workforce needs from us. Our local economy and our region really needs every institution doing everything they can to ensure that the people in the community have access and opportunity to the jobs that are waiting for them and that the employers, both local and global companies, have the workforce that they need for this thriving economy,” Jones added.

This is the second time that the chance to offer four-year degrees has been provided to community colleges in Texas. There were three initially that started off as a pilot program, including Midland College.

Jones said the schools that provide those degrees have “demonstrated tremendous success for their students and those institutions have demonstrated that community colleges can be a viable option for baccalaureate completion.”

Senate Bill 2118, passed in 2017, is very specific on what types of bachelor’s degrees it allows, Jones said.

Part of the process of choosing what degrees to offer was that each institution had to demonstrate that it was a high-demand bachelor’s degree program.

Jones said industry also was demanding the type of degrees OC will be offering.

She added that OC felt it couldn’t choose between the two degrees. But Jones said it will probably be a few years before OC adds a third, Jones said.

“Our local economy was demanding both, so we did simultaneously design and pursue the leadership and management, as well as the automation program,” Jones said.

Students will be able to begin enrollment in the programs at the same time.

“The automation program is a little bit different from the leadership and management program in that it will have a more structured cohort type experience because enrollment will be limited …,” Jones said.

For the first few cohorts, she said there could be more demand than seats.

“… The majority of the courses specific to automation will start in the fall, although there are a number of general education courses that those students would need to take, like calculus in the spring,” Jones said.

The leadership and management course will be more flexible for students.

Both programs will be built around eight-week terms, similar to OC’s applied science degrees.

Asked if OC will need more staff, faculty and space for the additional degrees, Jones said it won’t at first.

“We have built it such that we are able to start with the people and the facilities that we currently have. However, as the … enrollment and the number of cohorts increases, what will happen is that current full-time faculty in the applied science programs will have the opportunity to evolve into full-time baccalaureate instructors, which means they then leave a gap of an FTE (full-time equivalent), which we will then fill. So the result will be additional … full-time faculty positions, additional adjunct faculty positions for part-time coverage of courses (and) additional room usage,” Jones said.

Cost of the four-year degrees will come at community college rates, Jones said.

“Part of the legislative restriction was that the bachelor’s degrees offered through community colleges as part of this process are required to be offered at the community college tuition rates, so the students will have an opportunity not only to access programs that they previously could not access, but at a much more affordable rate than they might experience if they had to go elsewhere to pursue this degree at a university,” Jones said.

Midland College Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Rebecca Bell said she thinks having other community colleges offer baccalaureate degrees will have a positive impact. She added that there are enough people in the area who could benefit from these degrees.

MC offers a bachelor of applied technology in organizational management and a bachelor of applied sciences in health information management, which was added about three years ago.

“… Quite frankly we’re thrilled because we think there’s definitely a need for people with baccalaureate degrees, especially in the applied areas. The way the workforce is expanding in our region right now there’s definitely a need for more baccalaureate offerings,” Bell said.

University of Texas of the Permian Basin Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Heimmermann said the university supports OC’s new initiative.

“UT Permian Basin and Odessa College share a deep commitment for increasing higher educational attainment in the Permian Basin. We recently renewed and refined our articulation agreements to facilitate a smooth transfer from OC to UT Permian Basin to increase the number of baccalaureate holders in our region,” Heimmermann said in a statement.