Task Force recommends changes to higher education

By Karen Butterfield, Record Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/19

A key recommendation made by Higher Education System Review Task Force this week is to allow community colleges, in certain instances, to confer bachelor’s degrees. The recommendation, which was …

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Task Force recommends changes to higher education


A key recommendation made by Higher Education System Review Task Force this week is to allow community colleges, in certain instances, to confer bachelor’s degrees.The recommendation, which was accepted by a coordinating board Thursday, is one of several significant changes that could impact higher education at all levels in Missouri, including additional doctorates and engineering programs around the state. For community colleges, bachelor’s degrees would be offered primarily in the areas of health and applied technology.East Central College President Dr. Jon Bauer is a member of the review task force, representing both the Missouri Community College Association, which he chairs, and the community college sector.The task force was established in June at the request of Todd Richardson, speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives, and Stephen Cookson, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee.The report says institutions should only offer programs outside of their state-defined missions if needed “to fill a gap between supply and demand.” Currently, there is no provision that allows institutions to offer the programs even if there is a specific workforce need that it not being met.Bauer said that colleges offering degrees outside their mission is something that’s been happening at institutions across the country.“About half the states, in some fashion, allow community colleges to confer bachelor’s degrees,” Bauer explained, adding that it would only be select degrees for which there are no other regional providers, and after a thorough review by the Missouri Department of Higher Education.“We’re not looking to duplicate the four-year providers, or to replace partnerships and collaborations,” Bauer said. Collaborations with other institutions, such as ECC has with Central Methodist and Missouri Baptist, both which offer classes in Union, are encouraged. Central Methodist uses the ECC campus for a variety of courses. Must Demonstrate NeedInstitutions also would be required to demonstrate a need and that it has the capacity to offer the degree program with its current staff and facilities, as well as that there is a demand for the program and that there isn’t a viable program elsewhere.Bauer said programs in allied health and applied technology are good examples of degrees in which the college already has the facilities, faculty and student interest, but that it would be different throughout the state.The task force also recommended additional practice doctorates and engineering programs throughout the state, following the same strict criteria.The next step includes crafting legislation to implement the recommendations and working the legislative process.“One thing I found throughout the process is that institutions were interested in what’s best for the state and the students in our state,” Bauer said. Task ForceOther task force members included: Chuck Ambrose, University of Central Missouri; Joanna Anderson, State Fair Community College; Barbara Bichelmeyer, University of Missouri-Kansas City; Doug Davenport, Missouri Western State University;Steve Graham, University of Missouri; Mark James, Metropolitan Community College; Jeff Jochems, Ozarks Technical Community College; Steve Kurtz, Mineral Area College; Jennifer Methvin, Crowder College;Zora Mulligan, Commissioner of Higher Education; Jeff Pittman, St. Louis Community College; Clif Smart, Missouri State University; Dwyane Smith, Harris-Stowe State University; Shawn Strong, State Technical College; and Carlos Vargas, Southeast Missouri State University.Higher education