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New law paves way for SJC to offer bachelors in nursing, AT

Written by InsideDP.com Staff. Posted in Schools

SanJac logo 07 SJBlue taglineIN SCHOOLS
A bill passed in this year's Texas legislative session clears the way for some community colleges, including San Jacinto College to offer bachelor degrees in some areas. The college hopes to begin offering bachelor of applied technology and bachelor of science in nursing by the fall of 2019.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 2118 allowing certain community colleges, including San Jacinto College, to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing and applied technology, applied sciences upon approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and accreditation by the regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: Commission on Colleges.

“This move by the Texas legislature and Gov. Abbott will help to fill a critical workforce need in our region,” said Dr. Brenda Hellyer, San Jacinto College Chancellor. “I applaud and thank our local officials who supported this bill, as well as Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Sarah Davis for introducing bills in the Senate and House, respectively. Our region will have a stronger workforce and economy because of this legislation.”

San Jacinto College began developing curriculum and program proposals for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) in Industrial Management in preparation for hearings during the 85th Legislative Session. The College will now fine tune these program proposals for presentation and approval by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

According to the ProjectionsCentral.com, Texas will need to fill 61,610 registered nursing jobs by 2024, an increase of 31.2 percent. San Jacinto College currently offers a RN (registered nurse) through the Associate Degree Nursing program. Graduates of the San Jacinto College nursing program are near or exceed the state and national pass rate standards for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) at 75.68 percent for the South Campus nursing program and 86.11 percent for the Central and North Campus nursing programs combined.

Due to the need of East Harris County hospitals to have 80 percent of their RN workforce with a BSN, the College began working with area universities to offer an associate degree nurse-to-BSN transition program. This allowed students to complete the core course work for the BSN and the licensing as a RN at San Jacinto College before transferring to a four-year college or university to complete the final courses leading to a bachelor degree. This new option will allow students the flexibility to complete all of the required BSN transition course work at San Jacinto College.

“I am pleased that we were able to help navigate this important policy change into law,” said Sen. Larry Taylor (TX-11). “It is vital to meeting the employment needs for our area, providing for more affordable educational opportunities, and allowing San Jac to further its mission to support our community.”

“With our regional hospitals working toward achieving magnet status, it is critical that current associate degree nurses in the workforce have the opportunity to achieve the BSN here in our region,” said Kerri Hines, department chair for nursing on the San Jacinto College North Campus. “Most of our students are hired with the caveat that they obtain the BSN within three years. Providing an opportunity for students to succeed in their careers is part of the mission of San Jacinto College.”

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses, 79.6 percent of employers prefer BSN program graduates. Katey Crackel, Director of Education for Bayshore Medical Center and East Houston Regional Medical Center, a campus of Bayshore, says the American Nurses Credentialing Center in 2014 showed that health care facilities with higher percentages of BSN nurses enjoy better patient outcomes and significantly lower mortality rates. In order to apply for Magnet status an organization must achieve a Bachelor Degreed Nurse percentage of at least 80 percent.

“We have a long standing partnership with San Jacinto College, and because of that partnership we have been fortunate to sit on many nursing advisory councils at the College, providing feedback on courses we feel need to be added based on the performance of our current hires from San Jacinto College, as well as on curriculum that will be needed for the BSN transition program,” said Crackel. “Bayshore Medical Center and its affiliates supported SB 2118 throughout this legislative session, and we are excited about the opportunity to further our partnership with San Jacinto College.”

San Jacinto College will also develop program curriculum for a Bachelor of Applied Technology in Industrial Management. With new advancements in the petrochemical field, billions of dollars in plant expansions and the retiring workforce along the Texas Gulf Coast, the demand for workers at all levels of both plant operations and the companies that service the plants is needed. The BAT will allow San Jacinto College to help transition the current workforce that desires to move into middle management positions the opportunity for a career pathway without having to start over at the freshman level to achieve a bachelor degree. This will help current workers who already have experience in the industry and an associate degree to improve their business skills to obtain career advancement.

“Being able to offer these bachelor degrees will help us strengthen our industry partnerships and address the retiring workforce that our region is dealing with,” added Hellyer, who offered numerous testimonies on the topic during the 85th Legislative session. “Our region needs employees who can lead productive and efficient teams. The Bachelor of Applied Technology in Industrial Management will help create a career pathway for current workers who already possess an associate degree, have the background in process operations and maintenance, and would like to move into management positions.”

According to the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA), East Harris County will need more than 11,000 workers by 2019, with more than one-third of those in operations and maintenance. San Jacinto College is responding to the need with a new Center for Petrochemical, Energy, and Technology, scheduled to open on the Central Campus in 2019. This approximate 145,000- square-foot facility will prepare students for careers at all levels.

Chris Hext, legislative chairman for EHCMA, says that this legislation will provide employees in his industry opportunities that do not currently exist. “The BAT degree will be extremely beneficial in the chemical industry because these are individuals who have been working in our plants and understand our product and processes. The BAT will provide the industry with options to move personnel into a variety of positions as needed in our plants.”

“After several sessions, we finally have a statewide bill that allows community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in nursing and applied technology,” said Rep. Mary Ann Perez (TX-144), who offered a bill and championed the legislation presented by Rep. Sarah Davis in the Texas House of Representatives. “This will save students tuition money and help address a critical workforce need.”

San Jacinto College will soon begin the process of submitting proposals for the two bachelor’s degree programs to the THECB, as well as its accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: Commission on Colleges. The College hopes to begin offering the BSN and BAT degrees by fall 2019.