Spokane Falls Community College will begin offering a four-year applied science degree.
The expansion is part of a statewide effort to boost educational opportunities targeting high-demand fields and is designed primarily for students with technical backgrounds. The school’s new bachelor of applied science in information systems and technology is intended to prepare students for jobs in rapidly growing computer-related fields.
“This is focused specifically on people getting jobs,” SFCC President Janet Gullickson said Wednesday. “It’s a pathway for technically educated folks to advance their careers.”
Graduates would most likely be hired as network and computer systems administrators, information security analysts, data specialists and network support specialists, all of which are career fields projecting at least an 11 percent increase in demand for trained workers. The program will be available for fall enrollment.
The state created applied science baccalaureate programs three years ago as a way to increase educational opportunities specific to workforce needs, and because students often have difficulty transferring two-year technical degrees to traditional four-year universities.
Community colleges wanting to expand beyond two-year associate degree programs must win approval from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, which SFCC just received.
Among other things, the proposed degree must be in a field that isn’t already available at a nearby public university and must have an approved curriculum that universities offering master’s degrees would accept if graduates of the SFCC bachelor’s programs wanted to continue.
SFCC also has two other proposed bachelor’s degree programs still working their way through the state review process. One also is computer-related, while the other will be a business management degree. The classes primarily will be scheduled for late in the day and evenings to accommodate working students, Gullickson said.
The current expansion can be accommodated with existing facilities, though SFCC will need to add another computer lab and hire two additional faculty members, she said. The school is planning for 20 to 25 students enrolling in the bachelor’s program this fall.
Those most likely to enroll are students who already have earned associate’s degrees in SFCC’s existing computer technology program or are just finishing and want to earn a bachelor’s degree, which studies show increases job opportunities and boosts average earnings.
Students will continue to pay the cheaper community college tuition rates during their first two years of study, but the cost would climb to a rate comparable to the amount charged by Eastern Washington University during their third and fourth years. Full-time, in-state residents currently pay about $4,000 per academic year at SFCC and about $7,300 at EWU.
“Applied bachelor’s degrees will help the Spokane region grow to remain competitive,” Gullickson said.
So far, 16 community and technical colleges across Washington have received state approval to offer applied science bachelor’s degrees, according to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
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