Lawmakers at the state capitol are examining whether the state needs to allow more community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees. One of those institutions is San Antonio’s Alamo Colleges, which will be pursuing that effort during the 2017 legislative session.
As a way of making a four-year college more affordable, In 2003 state lawmakers passed legislation that gave a limited number of community colleges the permission to develop up to five baccalaureate degree programs.
But after getting back the results from a study commissioned by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, lawmakers are considering changes.
Dr. Raymond Peredes, the Commissioner for the Higher Education Coordinating Board, told House leaders the cost of tuition at universities continues to rise without the expansion of four-year degree programs at Texas community colleges.
“We need number one to address the issue of the growing expense of higher education and the fees and tuition at universities are going up more quickly than the commensurate costs at our community colleges, then I think it’s worth a try," Peredes said.
But Peredes says which community colleges and which degree program should be dependent on the workforce needs of that community. San Antonio’s Alamo Colleges is hoping to be approved to expand its programs to include four-year degrees in nursing, fire science, and sign language.
But the college’s Leo Zuniga said even with the addtional degree programs, keeping up with what the workforce demands can create quite a challenge.
“There are some occupations where the growth is so high that you cannot meet the demand, such as with nurses and the capacity," Zuniga explained.
Currently South Texas College in McAllen, Midland College in West Texas and Brazosport College near Houston are the only community colleges that can offer baccalaureate degrees.