Bellevue College wins approval for two new bachelor’s degrees

Bellevue College received approval today from the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges to develop two new bachelor’s degree programs – in Nursing and in Information Systems and Technology (IST) – that will provide area residents with affordable paths to family-wage jobs in these growing fields. When the two programs officially begin classes in the fall of 2013, this will raise the total number of four-year degrees offered at BC to five.

“This is a win-win situation for both students and area employers,” said Leslie Heizer Newquist, director of applied baccalaureate programs at BC. “Citizens of the Eastside and the Puget Sound region will get access to bachelor’s degrees with affordable tuition that can help them land jobs with good salaries. And employers, whether they are established hospitals or tech startups, will have ready-access to qualified workers so they can provide the best care possible or grow their companies.”

Bellevue College decided to add degrees in these fields after extensive labor market research indicated a growing need in the Puget Sound region and across Washington state for workers with at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing and in information technology (IT).

The complexity of healthcare has precipitated many hospitals and healthcare providers to increasingly require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) of all nursing hires. A 2010 Institute of Medicine report recommended increasing the percentage of nurses with a BSN degree or above to 80 percent nationwide by 2020. Such requirements are already in place at several area hospitals, including Seattle Children’s, Swedish Medical Center, and the University of Washington Medical Center. Additionally, for nurses to advance in the profession, into management roles for instance (and the higher salaries these positions typically bring), a BSN is becoming standard.

In offering a BSN, the college will build on its accredited associate degree nursing program, which was founded in 1967 and is nearly as old as the college. Students and current nurses who already have associate degrees will be the primary candidates, and those who enroll in the program will receive intensive instruction in healthcare IT, community and public health, and leadership and management functions.

BC proposed the second degree, in Information Systems and Technology, based in part on findings by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that a bachelor’s degree is now considered the minimum level of education for a variety of IT occupations, including computer programmer, computer systems analyst and database administrator. As a result, more students, along with existing IT professionals, will need to continue their education at the bachelor’s level. Demand for jobs in this field in King County and Washington state is expected to be strong through at least 2020.

BC’s IST degree, the first of its kind in the state, will provide a broad base of theoretical and technical knowledge, and students will specialize in one of four concentrations: application development, business intelligence; systems administration; and information security.

These new degrees join three existing four-year degrees currently offered at BC: Healthcare Technology and Management, which officially started this past fall quarter, Radiology and Imaging Sciences, and Interior Design.

Community colleges like BC have historically offered only two-year degrees and certificates. However, a study by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board (now the Washington Student Achievement Council) several years ago concluded that existing universities could not provide enough graduates with bachelor’s degrees to meet the employment needs of companies and organizations here in Washington. BC has proposed two more bachelor’s degrees, in biological and environmental technology and in data analytics; if approved by the state, they could be offered as soon as 2014.

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Last Updated December 6, 2012