GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Four-year nursing degrees will not immediately be part of Colorado Mountain College's move to offer a limited number of bachelor's degrees, which now only await the governor's signature for final approval.
In order to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing, the director of the program as well as 25 percent of the teaching faculty must have earned their doctorate degrees, CMC President Stan Jensen explained last week after the Colorado Legislature approved the four-year degree plan for the Glenwood Springs-based community college district.
"There are some very high standards for degree programs in the health care professions, and it's important to do it right," CMC spokeswoman Debbie Crawford said. "If we are to offer that, it would take some time and a lot of work."
Recent surveys taken among students and community members have indicated that business, teaching and nursing are the top three areas in which bachelor's degrees are most desired, Jensen said.
"We have a very strong two-year nursing degree program already, and I anticipate that we will make that one of the new four-year degree offerings," he said.
However, with the time it will take to complete the necessary education requirements for administrators and faculty, as well as a more rigorous accreditation process for health care degrees, it would be 2016 before CMC will offer more than the current associates degree in nursing.
The college does, however, plan to move forward in the business and education arenas first, offering some preliminary upper-level classes as early as fall 2010. Full baccalaureate degree programs could be in place by fall 2011.
Presuming Gov. Bill Ritter signs the bill, the measure, sponsored by Sens. Gail Schwartz, D-Pitkin County, and Dan Gibbs, D-Summit County, will permit CMC to offer as many as five baccalaureate degrees. Resort management and environmental education are other areas that have been mentioned as possible candidates for four-year degrees.
CMC has seven campuses located throughout northwest Colorado, including Glenwood Springs/Carbondale, Rifle, Aspen, Summit County, Steamboat Springs and the Vail-Eagle Valley. No other institution in the region offers four-year degrees at this time.
The college will also need accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission and the blessing of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education before the plan can take effect.
Through the accreditation process, CMC will have to demonstrate the need for the new degree programs as well as the college's ability to administer and fund them.
"We've allowed for a little over a year for that process to take place," Jensen said.
Jensen said he does not anticipate a big increase in staffing to offer the new degree programs.
"It depends on how many people sign up," he said. "We will use our existing faculty a great deal as well as adjunct faculty, but we don't want to take away from the talented and effective faculty we have for our freshman and sophomore students."