Aug 28, 2014
Many workforce-development needs, particularly those requiring baccalaureate degrees, remain unmet in some areas of Texas. Employers and students are calling for additional programs to develop workplace skills and to provide opportunities for career advancement. On May 22, 2013, the Texas Legislature approved a bill mandating a study on whether community college baccalaureate degree programs should be expanded in Texas. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board asked the RAND Corporation to partner with the Texas Higher Education Policy Initiative to conduct the study.
This report summarizes a longer research report in which the authors assess unmet workforce-development needs in nursing and the applied sciences, assess the arguments for and against baccalaureate expansion, and recommend potential activities to support implementation of any new policies undertaken to expand community college baccalaureate programs. They find significant need for more baccalaureate nurses, although rapidly growing distance learning programs may be able to meet this need. The authors find varying needs for the four applied science occupations they examined: computer and information technology, management of fire sciences, management of production/operations technicians, and health information technology. While expanding community college baccalaureate degree programs could help meet unmet needs and increase degree attainment among students, there are concerns about costs, mission creep at community colleges, counterproductive competition between community colleges and universities, and a decline in the overall quality of a Texas baccalaureate. The authors discuss the inherent tradeoffs that policymakers face in this regard.