Bachelor’s degrees coming soon to state’s community colleges

OCC does not plan to offer four-year degrees

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 2, 2013

OAKLAND COUNTY —  Last week, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill that will allow the state’s 28 community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in four different areas of study.

House Bill 4496, introduced by John Walsh, R-Livonia, authorizes community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in energy production, concrete technology, maritime technology and culinary arts. Community colleges in Michigan traditionally have only been able to provide students with two-year associate degrees and certification programs. The bill had originally included nursing, but nursing was dropped from the final legislation.

According to Mike Hansen, President of the Michigan Community College Association, the four-year degree programs will allow the state to respond to workforce needs in specific regions and industries by making it more accessible for students to access the educational programs that lead to those jobs.

“Community college students are also more likely to stay and work in their communities after graduation,” said Hansen in a prepared statement. “This is a sound strategy to strengthen our communities and invest in people that will stay, live and work in Michigan.”

According to the MCCA, 21 other states have already introduced similar baccalaureate programs, starting with Florida in 2001.

Though many community colleges around Michigan are expected to take advantage of the new legislation, Oakland Community College has announced that it will not be one of them. According to OCC Chancellor Timothy Meyer, the college’s five campuses are scattered across the county and in very close proximity to other universities, where students can study for four-year degrees.

“In Oakland County, we are a ‘university-rich’ environment, with excellent nearby institutions like The University of Michigan, Oakland University, Wayne State University, Walsh College and Baker College that enable our graduates to fulfill their advanced educational needs,” said Meyer in a prepared statement. “Nevertheless, this legislation is critical in helping some community colleges meet the demands of the labor market — particularly in more rural areas, where there are no educational opportunities nearby.”

Meyer added that the college’s decision not to offer bachelor’s degree programs could be revisited in the future, especially if the legislation is adjusted to allow community colleges to provide four-year degrees in nursing.

“With nearly 500 students registered in our various nursing tracks, OCC maintains the largest nursing program in Michigan,” said Meyer in the statement, adding that all of the college’s graduates pass the nursing licensure exam with a score of 90 percent or better and go on to find immediate employment.

While HB 4496 has made its way through the Michigan Legislature, it still needs to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Director of College Communications George Cartsonis said he expects the bill to be signed in the coming days.