Editor’s note: For an overview of why community college baccalaureate programs make sense, read yesterday’s Q&A with Linda Thor, chancellor emeritus of the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District and a board member of the Community College Baccalaureate Association.
If you need evidence that a community college baccalaureate program can work, look no further than Miami Dade College, which has 16 bachelor’s degree programs in place and another working its way through the approval process.
Miami Dade tracks student outcomes using data from the Florida Department of Education. The most recent stats available, covering 2012–13 graduates, show
- More than 80 percent of the 817 graduates with bachelor’s degrees had jobs, and 10 percent were continuing their education.
- Graduates of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program had a 91 percent employment rate.
- Miami Dade baccalaureate recipients had an average salary of more than $50,000 a year. Those with degrees in the Bachelor of Applied Science in the health science/physician assistant program earned an average of nearly $106,000.
In measuring success, the college also looks at who is graduating from these programs. The college offers a nontraditional student population a nontraditional pathway to a bachelor’s degree, says Lenore Rodicio, provost of academic and student affairs at Miami Dade. Sixty-eight percent of the bachelor’s graduates were 26 or older; more than 70 percent attended school part time; and nearly 50 percent received federal financial aid.
“We’ve got a really vibrant diversity in our baccalaureate profile that’s very different from what you would traditionally see in four-year programs,” Rodicio says. “It’s very reflective of the community we serve.”
How the college began offering four-year degrees
In developing its baccalaureate programs, Miami Dade first assessed the community’s workforce needs. “The initial ones that were quickly identified are three of the largest programs that we have at the institution: nursing, public safety management and education,” Rodicio says.
Florida state law governs the approval process, and a period of public commentary must take place before any program is finalized. In addition, each academic program has to obtain accreditation. The entire process can take close to a year.
The most frequently voiced concern is that a proposed program will duplicate one already being provided by an area four-year college or university. Miami Dade has found successful ways to complement, not compete with, what other institutions are offering.
“For the most part, with all of the programs that we have proposed, we’ve actually enjoyed a lot of support from our partner universities,” Rodicio says. “In the most recent one that we are working on, in data analytics, our partner at Florida International University has asked us to work with them on a streamlined career pathway from our baccalaureate into their master’s program.”
Faculty, resource and curriculum development have gone smoothly, too. “It hasn’t been a huge shift,” Rodicio says. “Obviously, when we open new programs — especially in nursing, health sciences and IT, where we require additional laboratory components and additional resources — there is usually an up-front investment. We try to get all of our equipment and resources up to spec.”
The college’s Office of Academic Programs guides faculty members, academic chairpersons and deans through the program development process. When existing faculty members lack sufficient expertise in certain areas, outside experts help with curriculum development.
A successful community college baccalaureate program must be closely tied to the workforce requirements of the community, Rodicio says. That means looking at research on employment trends and, most importantly, bringing industry partners to the table when creating the curriculum. The courses must cover the core competencies employers seek when making a new hire.
“What we are trying to do is not just create another academic program that’s just going to lead to a degree,” Rodicio says. “We’re trying to create degrees that lead to successful jobs and careers for our students.”