In recent years, we have seen a nationwide trend in community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees in addition to the traditional certificates and associate degrees. Community colleges are expanding their offerings in direct response to the demands of our 21st-century students, who seek more accessible, affordable four-year degrees that will open the doors to jobs in high-demand industries.
For any community college, offering bachelor’s programs is a truly monumental advancement. Internally, it involves navigating a years-long, complex transition requiring countless hours of research, meetings and reams of documentation to meet deadlines that the Department of Education and the college’s accrediting agency outline.
However, the positive outcome for our students is undeniable: They are able to avoid the higher price tag of state or private four-year institutions as well as the inconvenience of a transfer process, and they are put on a clear and direct path to a four-year degree in a high-demand industry. For a large number of our students who attend part-time or are working parents, this means both a cheaper and a more convenient alternative to four-year universities.
At Pasco-Hernando State College (PHSC) — formerly Pasco-Hernando Community College — we began offering bachelor’s degrees in 2014. Our students are enrolling in two bachelor’s programs, both for high-growth industries: the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, offered online; and the Bachelor of Applied Science in supervision and management.
Most importantly, nothing has changed about our work as educators — from quality instruction to cost-effectiveness, these are words that defined our community college and will continue to define us as we grow as a state college. Even though it is no longer in our name, the value of “community” remains at the heart of all of our programs. Serving our district’s residents will always be the core of our mission — and we can better do so as a state college that can provide a direct path to a bachelor’s degree.
Throughout Florida, students are responding to the increase in bachelor’s degree offerings with enthusiasm. According to the Florida Department of Education, the number of students enrolling to get bachelor’s degrees at former community colleges in Florida alone has nearly quadrupled to more than 30,000 in just five years.
Now, in just one year of existence as PHSC, our college is poised for future growth to meet the demand expressed by both the district’s employers and the career goals of our students. As we grow into our new role, we have one lesson to share with our peers who are considering whether to offer bachelor’s degrees: No matter our name or the degrees we offer, the concept of community will always remain firmly rooted in our mission.