Oregon Bill Would Permit Baccalaureate Degrees Be Offered at Community Colleges

Oregon Senate president Peter Courtney has proposed a new bill that could allow state community college to offer baccalaureate degrees.

If approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Senate Bill 3 would permit two-year institutions to offer a select number of four-year degree programs. The process of gaining approval would take at least a year, according to Linn-Benton Community College president Greg Hamann.

Details surrounding the circumstances that would allow certain programs able to provide four-year degrees have not yet been established, Hamann said. But the idea is something that has previously been discussed, including during the most recent state legislative session, Hamann added.

“It’s not an easy process. Every program that we offer has to go through a vetting process,” he said.

If approved, Senate Bill 3 would require community colleges to submit records of local unfulfilled workforce needs that would be met by the four-year degree programs in addition to evidence that the institution has the knowledge, resources and student interest to make the program successful, according to the Gazette Times.

Linn-Beaton collaborates with Oregon State University in a program that makes it easy for students to transfer credits and a pathway to the completion of a bachelor’s degree at the university.

“We’re not one of those schools sitting waiting to do it, but certainly if we had the opportunity we’d have a conversation about it,” Hamann said. “I think we see opportunities, but also have questions about it.”

Hamann said he would advocate that community colleges not be required to utilize current state support funds to start or maintain a bachelor’s degree program, but continue to use that funding to uphold associate programs.

Senate Bill 3 would offer a unique opportunity but there are still many factors that are unknown.

“The bottom line is, we want to create the appropriate and best opportunity for students, and if that means doing a baccalaureate program at a two-year institution and that’s the best way to accomplish that, then I think we should have the opportunity to do that,” Hamann said.

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