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Faculty and student perspectives on the development of community college baccalaureate degrees in career, technical, and professional programs in rural Texas




Fry, Ann Marshall, author
Kuk, Linda, advisor
Gloeckner, Gene, committee member
Anderson, Sharon, committee member
Clemons, Stephanie, committee member

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Cohen and Brawer (2003) identified community colleges as critical to the process of educational democracy in the United States. Community colleges have been a model for change, facing numerous challenges over time. Both societal and institutional perspectives contribute to the rationale for the community college baccalaureate. However, perceptions about the Community College Baccalaureate vary across the college campus. This study explored the perspectives of faculty, administrators, and student respondents from three community colleges in a rural area of Texas toward the development of baccalaureate programs at the community college level. The intent was to establish an initial framework for community colleges to follow in order to determine if the pursuit of community college baccalaureate degrees within their CTE and professional programs might be warranted. Few studies have explored the lack of higher degree opportunities for Career and Technical Education (CTE) and professional programs as a reason for failure to transfer or complete a degree. Many career and technical professions are requiring education beyond associate degrees for entry-level positions, and many are looking for bachelor degree graduates with technical skills. It could be that the time has come for the development of baccalaureate programs at the community college level, especially for CTE and professional programs. This study was approached from a pragmatic perspective and utilized primarily quantitative methods, but incorporated open-ended questions at the end of each survey and a focus group to support the findings of the quantitative data. Factor analysis of two surveys (one for faculty/administrators, and one for students) determined three constructs: Student Access (to baccalaureate degrees), Workforce Needs, and Mission Expansion, also identified in other studies by Townsend and Bragg (2009), and Walker (2005), leading researchers in this area. Cronbach’s alphas were computed for the each of the three groups for both surveys. In the Faculty/administrator survey Student Access had a strong alpha score of α = .89, Workforce Needs α = .75 (moderate), and Mission Expansion α =.68 (marginally acceptable level). Reliability results for the Student Survey showed Cronbach’s Alpha was at an acceptable level of α = .825, but the next two factors had low reliability ratings (α = .41, α = .39) probably due to a low number of items as well as lower loading numbers. Results indicated that faculty were concerned with the logistics of developing baccalaureate programs at their institutions and that there would need to be a concerted effort across disciplines and throughout administrative levels in order to develop and provide for the sustainability of those programs. Several expressed concerns over existing and needed resources, as well as assurances of administrative support. Students were concerned with the availability of baccalaureate programs for their fields of study within a reasonable distance, and that the possibility of lower costs associated with ready access would affect their pursuit of education past an Associate’s degree. Both results were in agreement with existing literature (Bragg, 2001; Hoffman, 1998; Floyd, 2006; Floyd and Walker, 2009). Findings from this research study were significant in that they establish an interest by students and some faculty and administrators for baccalaureate development at the institutions participating in the study for selected Career and Technical and professional programs and an initial framework for program development. However, as supported by this study and existing literature, extensive conversations with local, area, and regional industry should be held to help determine which programs should be considered for development into 4-year programs. The structure of the degree itself should be explored and defined according to institutional and workforce needs. Faculty should be evaluated for not only their educational qualifications, but for their industry connections as well. Institutions should consider innovative delivery methods to help meet the needs for programs quality and flexibility for the non-traditional student. How the community college would address non-technical skills (critical thinking, workplace etiquette, job-seeking skills, etc.) should also be considered. Conversations should take place with nearby universities with graduate programs to ensure the ability of students who wish to go further would be accepted into those graduate programs (Grothe, 2009). Community colleges are a model for change, facing numerous challenges over time. Perhaps it is time to look more seriously at the opportunities offered through development of baccalaureate degrees at the community college level in selected CTE and professional programs.


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community college baccalaureate


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