Missouri House votes to pass bill geared toward community colleges
By: Katie Hayes
Missouri community colleges may soon offer more than associate degrees and transferrable credits. The Missouri House of Representatives voted to pass a bill which would allow community colleges to grant baccalaureate degrees.
Chancellor Jeff Pittman was involved in creating HB 758, which was introduced by Representative Steve Cookson. The House voted to pass the bill on March 1.
“I think it’s very exciting,” Pittman said. “Missouri would not be the first state, but I think we have some unique programs and we want to develop some programs that are workforce specific.”
The baccalaureate degree would be an applied bachelor’s degree, which places more emphasis on technical components of programs.
Pittman said two of the programs STLCC would consider proposing for applied bachelor degree programs are its physical therapy assistant program and its deaf communications program.
“[The deaf communications program] takes such a high number of credit hours to be at the certification they [students] need to begin with,” Pittman said.
Pittman said he believes the coordinating board for higher education would accept up to two proposals from the community college sector as soon as this coming fiscal year, which is July 1.
The bill would only allow community colleges to offer specific baccalaureate programs if those programs did not “unnecessarily duplicate an existing program at another university or if collaboration with another university was not feasible.
This means offering baccalaureate programs at STLCC would involve collaborating with University of Missouri – St. Louis and Harris Stowe University.
“We would first have to reach out to University of Missouri – St. Louis and Harris Stowe University to see if they had interest in pursuing it [the programs STLCC would plan to offer],” Pittman said.
While HB 758 still needs to pass through the Senate, there is another bill in the House related to higher education and baccalaureate programs.
HB 744 was sponsored by Representative Rick Brattin.
This bill states that “Offering a baccalaureate degree program under this section does not otherwise alter the role and mission of any community college.” For St. Louis Community College, this means the degrees it potentially offers must be focused on workforce solutions.
“If you look at our mission, we’re about preparing individuals for the workforce or the workplace or both of those combined,” Pittman said. “We don’t have a research component. We are focused on teaching and learning — focused on training.”