Four-Year Degrees at Community College? Many Schools Now Say Yes

Four-Year Degrees at Community College? Many Schools Now Say Yes
What is the latest on four-year degree programs at community colleges? We look at some of the states entering into this relatively new frontier, and why some are having a tough time selling the idea.

Community colleges have traditionally been considered the go-to place for two-year vocational degrees or general college coursework for students that have plans to transfer to a four-year college or university. However, these institutions of higher education are increasing their program offerings to include a smattering of four-year degree options as well. Although not without their share of opposition, the four-year degree is slowly but surely becoming more common at the community college level. Check out these states and schools delving into the frontier of the four-year degree program.

Chattanooga State Considers Addition of Five Four-Year Programs

A community college in Tennessee is looking at adding five new programs to their current catalog selections. The Chattanoogan reports that Chattanooga State Community College is considering the addition of four-year degree programs in a variety of high-tech fields. The president of the college, Dr. Jim Cantanzaro, applied for approval of the programs last summer and is still waiting for a response from the Tennessee Board of Regents.

The community college would like to add four-year degree programs in chemical process engineering, radiological sciences, nuclear engineering, technology management, and mechatronics engineering. The programs were specifically chosen based on the local employment needs of the current workforce. Dr. Cantanzaro made it clear the goal of the program addition was to fulfill those professional needs and not to transform Chattanooga State into a full-fledged four-year school.

Dr. Cantanzaro also explained that 60 percent of the material in the new degree programs would be “applied,” meaning the work would involve hands-on training in labs, plants, or clinical settings. To date, the board of regents has not taken any action on the request, casting doubt on an imminent start date for the new degree programs. Although the original hope was to begin the programs in fall, 2013, the programs will require an additional year to pursue accreditation once they have been approved by the regents.

This video offers an overview of the bachelor's program at Chattanooga State Community College.

Michigan Schools Poised to Make the Move

Community colleges in Michigan are also poised to make the move to a selection of four-year degree programs. According to MLive, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation last year to allow community colleges in the state to offer four-year degree programs in the areas of maritime technology, culinary arts, energy production technology, and cement technology. Schools like Jackson Community College are now considering the addition of at least one or two of these fields of study to broaden the options for their students.

Jackson Community College has announced plans to add four-year degree programs in culinary arts and energy production technology in the near future. To correspond with the new offerings, the school is also considering dropping “community” from its name. Cindy Allen, vice president of administration at JCC, told MLive the change would better reflect the major changes coming to the school. JCC has also said that more than half the community colleges in Michigan currently do not include the word “community” in their names.

Brevard Adds Four-Year Degrees to Meet Employment Needs

Four-year management degrees will soon be coming to Brevard Community College, according to a recent report at the Small Business Newswire. The school has announced plans to add baccalaureate degrees in general business management and healthcare management. The inaugural programs are slated to begin in the upcoming fall semester. The programs will specifically be geared to professionals in the workforce who already have a two-year degree and require additional education to move their careers forward.

“These new degree programs are designed specifically to help working adults with an existing associate’s degree in these fields to obtain the further education they need to move up in the business or healthcare world and advance into management. They are also perfect for traditional students aiming for a career in business or healthcare,” John Glisch, a spokesman for Brevard Community College told the Small Business Newswire.

This video looks at a proposal for a four-year degree program.

Colorado Faces Opposition to Four-Year Option

In Colorado, the quest to add four-year programs to community college catalogs has received a serious amount of opposition. Four-year schools in the state, including the University of Colorado and Colorado State University, have protested the plan, stating it would make the higher education system in the stateless, rather than more, efficient overall. The Denver Post reports that the clash between two- and four-year schools will make it to state legislation at any time, where the move will be considered by local lawmakers.

Those in favor of the change say Colorado needs to provide additional degree options at two-year schools because of the extensive rural population in the state that may not be able to travel to the location of a four-year college or university. The move would also make four-year degrees more cost-effective for cash-strapped students. According to a report at the Huffington Post, two-thirds of the community college students in Colorado are working to put themselves through school.

Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, argues the move would not be an efficient use of state and school resources. He has pushed for an alternative that would allow greater cooperation between two- and four-year schools, rather than putting the two in direct competition. However, two-year schools would not be allowed to offer the same bachelor programs at four-year schools in the area, making the competition concern a bit of a moot point.

As more states begin offering four-year degree programs at community colleges, time will tell whether this change will offer college students the benefits some proponents of the move are promising.

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