By Kayla Tucker – Managing Editor
As state legislators consider a bill that would allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees discussed the possibility of offering expanded degree options locally at its Wednesday retreat.
President Steven Ender was careful to clarify that he was only “brainstorming” about this possibility.
Currently the Michigan Senate is reviewing Bill 98, in which part of it states that board of trustees at a community college may, “establish education programs and grant baccalaureate degrees in cement technology, maritime technology, energy production technology, culinary arts, ski area management, wastewater treatment technology, allied health, information technology, or manufacturing technology” and “establish a nursing education program that grants bachelor of science in nursing degrees.”
A similar bill was passed through the Michigan legislature in 2013, but only permitted bachelor’s degrees in cement technology, maritime technology, energy production technology, or culinary arts.
The new bill also states that, “The board of trustees shall not eliminate any associate degree programs the community college offers at the time it establishes a bachelor degree program under this subdivision unless the board demonstrates that there is a lack of student demand for that associate degree.”
GRCC has transfer agreements with many colleges in the state including Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, and Ferris State University.
“I think that my four-year partners would prefer that we not get into baccalaureate education,” Ender said, but believes they will still remain interested in transfer students. “Our transfer students get accepted pretty much across the state.”
Instead of offering advanced degrees in all subjects, the legislation – if approved – would lead GRCC administrators to focus on exploring the possibility of expanding the workforce programs the college is already known for. The option to a pursue a four-year degree at GRCC would simplify the process for some students.
“I think it’s important that I think of this,” Ender said, referring to future possibilities in the interest of the students.