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House approves pilot program allowing some community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees

by caprecord

A bill that would allow some community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees passed out of the House on Monday.

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House Bill 2769 creates a pilot program allowing up to five community or technical colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in “high-demand fields.” The program would be run by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

The bill passed with a vote of 68-29 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Prime sponsor, Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island, says this bill would allow technical and community colleges to “offer baccalaureates in high-demand fields,” like STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). She said the state has more than 25,000 openings in the high-demand fields, and that this would allow more people to earn degrees in subjects like nursing and teaching.

“We want to make sure that our community colleges can provide those degrees…for the people exactly in their community,” she said.

Rep. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup, voted in support of the bill. He said that rural areas are going to be different than an urban area and that “we need to recognize that diversity.”

“The mission of our community colleges can be expanded to fit the different needs of different communities,” he said.

Republican Rep. Matt Manweller, a political science and constitutional law professor at Central Washington University, voted no on the bill.

He said four-year schools have a “rigorous accreditation process,” for their professors that community colleges don’t.

He said that a student doing cutting-edge research at the University of Washington shouldn’t get the same degree as someone studying at a community college.

“[Community colleges] were not hired to do this job and then to put them in this position puts them at serious risk to our system of higher education,” Manweller said.

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