Columbia Basin College in Pasco is closing in on expanding the variety of four-year bachelor's degrees it offers.
College officials told the CBC Board of Trustees on Monday that they have filed paperwork with the state to offer a bachelor of applied science degree in project management, which the college currently offers as a certificate and associate's degree. College officials also are pursuing a four-year degree track for cybersecurity, which was a new offering this fall.
They discussed the possible future need to offer similar four-year degrees in other disciplines, from applied chemistry to computer science, to meet the needs of students and employers.
"The idea of a community college being just a two-year spot is kind of blurring," said CBC President Rich Cummins.
The bachelor of applied science degree is typically only offered by community colleges and similar institutions, though college officials said that Central Washington University and Eastern Washington University offer the degree track in some programs.
CBC's only bachelor of applied science degree currently is in applied management, which has had about 50 graduates in two years. More than 80 students are enrolled in the program for the winter term.
Jason Schlegel, the program's director, and CBC senior vice president Bill Saraceno said a recent survey of graduates showed a portion of those graduates attributed their pay raises, promotions, increased responsibilities and job prospects as a result of obtaining the bachelor's degree.
"By offering this degree, it allows students to persist farther," Schlegel said, adding that it allows students to stack credentials, building upon one-year certificate and two-year associate's tracks in their dedicated disciplines.
College officials and board members said they've also heard encouragement from employers to provide more advanced degrees.
Board Chairman Duke Mitchell said he had spoken with an official from the U.S. Department of Energy, which provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to start offering courses in project management in June 2011.
"They're very supportive and excited to see this go forward," Mitchell said.
A variety of fields could benefit from having a higher-level degree of study offered at the college, Cummins said. What will have to be considered is how much students are willing to pay to advance their careers and whether the additional study is worth it.
"We will do what is necessary for students to have meaningful employment," he said. "The goal is more to make sure we're relevant to graduates' employers."
-- The board nominated Daphne Larios, interim assistant dean for basic studies, as its choice for this year's Transforming Lives: Building America Awards.
The awards are given out at the winter conference of the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges. The group recognizes current or former students whose lives have been transformed by attending a Washington community or technical college.
Larios was one of three considered by the board. A child of addicts, she already was married, had a 11/2-year-old child and was the legal guardian of a younger brother when she started pursuing her education at CBC at the age of 18. She since has earned associate's and bachelor's degrees and is pursuing a master's degree.
"I can't imagine how my life would be different if I hadn't come to CBC," she told the board after receiving the nomination.
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