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Old 10-20-2005, 11:16 AM
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Lebenz Lebenz is offline
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Thumbs up Our State does something right

4-year degrees at 2-year colleges
By Nick Perry

Seattle Times staff reporter

For the first time in Washington, students soon may earn bachelor's degrees from community colleges.

Four community colleges will be chosen in the spring for a pilot program approved this year by the Legislature. The four-year-degree programs would launch in the fall of 2007.

The state's community colleges, which only offer two-year degrees, currently enroll nearly two-thirds of Washington students advancing beyond high school.

The four-year degrees would be aimed at people already working in specialized fields, such as health care and hospitality, who want to advance their careers not at students looking for a general education in liberal arts or science. Degrees would be "applied" that is related to work and classes often would be at night or on weekends.

The community-college board approved criteria for choosing the pilot colleges yesterday. Colleges must show there is student and employer demand and that similar courses aren't offered elsewhere.

South Seattle culinary-arts student Carly Stegin, 19, said she hopes she can pursue the higher degree on campus after finishing her associate degree next year. Otherwise, she would have to travel to Pullman or Las Vegas to further her education, she said.

"I've cooked with my parents my whole life and worked at a restaurant," she said. "But I decided I needed to go to school if I wanted to be more than just a prep cook."

Stegin, who works full time in addition to her classes, wants to work her way up and eventually open an Italian restaurant. A bachelor's degree would help her advance more quickly and give her financial and management skills, she said.

Washington would join a dozen or so other states where students can earn bachelor's degrees outside traditional university settings.

In Florida and elsewhere, the changes have sparked turf wars.

"There has been controversy," said Norma Kent, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C. "Of course the four-year institutions are a little bit wary about what it means. And some in the community-college system think it might erode its mission."

Universities here will have a chance to weigh in as the degree-review process moves forward. But community-college administrators are confident they have sufficiently limited offerings.

"If [universities] think we are in their turf, they are not going to be very happy," Jan Yoshiwara, the board's director of education services, said at a meeting this week. "But I think we'll be fine."

"If it ends up serving the needs of the people of the state of Washington, we are all for it," said Bob Roseth, a spokesman with the University of Washington. "We'll just have to see how the experiment goes."

For the community colleges, accreditation and funding hurdles remain. In many cases, the colleges will need to upgrade libraries and attract well-qualified lecturers to clear them.

The state Board for Community and Technical Colleges this week will submit a request to Gov. Christine Gregoire for $400,000 in startup costs and $504,000 in annual expenses.

Adding higher degrees "is not viewed as the first step in a progressive conversion to a comprehensive baccalaureate institution," the board emphasized in a report. "Community and technical colleges will remain predominantly lower-division institutions."

Seven colleges want to participate in the pilot, including South Seattle Community College, which would offer a bachelor of applied science in hospitality management, and Lake Washington Technical College, which would offer a degree in applied technology.

Also interested are Bellevue Community College, which would offer a radiology degree; Everett Community College, Olympic College in Bremerton, Columbia Basin College in Pasco and Peninsula College in Port Angeles.

The community-college board has been working with the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which, along with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, must approve the plans.

The pilot would start with 80 full-time-equivalent students in 2007, then expand to 160 in 2008.

A study by the community-college board indicates there is demand for 3,000 slots. Board officials hope they can eventually convince lawmakers to allow them broader degree-granting authority.

Ray Nadolny, vice president for institutional advancement at Lake Washington, said skilled workers who lack a higher degree often find it hard to land management roles.

"They're finding out the new card to get into those positions is a baccalaureate degree," Nadolny said. "For us, it's part of our work-force mission."

The college plans to spend $80,000 each year on its library for extra staff, books and online resources, said Nadolny. Those improvements will benefit all students, not just those who may follow a four-year track, he added.

South Seattle President Jill Wakefield, who brought together 41 business and community leaders to discuss plans for the hospitality degree, said there's been "overwhelming support" for the college's proposal. "Throughout the whole hospitality and tourism industry, there is a shortage of well-qualified people," she said.

Her enthusiasm is echoed by business operators.

"It's possible for people to advance much quicker with a formal education," said Roberta Greer, a senior vice president for cruise operator Tillicum Village and a supporter of the proposed degree program.

"I think that it's really important to have that document that really tells individuals that you are going to be responsible."

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Last edited by Lebenz; 10-20-2005 at 11:26 AM.
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