A proposed bachelor’s degree program in nursing has been approved by Austin Community College trustees. The program, designed for people who are already registered nurses, still needs approval from accrediting organizations and the state’s higher education agency.
More than 7,700 registered nurses in ACC’s service area, which encompasses 19 school districts and 7,000 square miles, would quality for the program, according to the college.
Senate Bill 2118, a measure passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott this year, allows ACC and certain other public junior colleges to seek permission from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer bachelor’s degrees in some high-demand, workforce-oriented fields. ACC’s bachelor of science degree in nursing would be the college’s first such offering, targeting registered nurses with two-year associate degrees.
A report in 2010 by the Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine, recommended that the proportion of nurses with a bachelor’s degree rise from 50 percent at the time of the report to 80 percent by 2020. Fifty-five percent currently have four-year degrees, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
The higher credential introduces students “to a wider range of competencies in such arenas as health policy and health care financing, community and public health, leadership, quality improvement and systems thinking,” the institute’s report said. Research shows that hospitals with higher percentages of nurses holding bachelor’s degrees have lower mortality rates.
Most four-year schools in Central Texas don’t have nursing programs set up to accommodate students who already hold a two-year degree. ACC’s program would provide “an affordable, accessible pathway to get the last two years,” according to Richard Rhodes, the school’s president and CEO.
ACC’s Board of Trustees also approved a proposed associate degree in emergency management at its Dec. 4 meeting. College officials say they expect to offer that program and the bachelor’s in nursing next fall, assuming they get the green light from the coordinating board, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Texas Board of Nurses and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.