LANSING — Two metro Detroit community colleges say they are ready to offer bachelor’s degrees in nursing. All they need is permission.
Schoolcraft College in Livonia and Henry Ford College in Dearborn are among the leaders championing an effort in Lansing to allow Michigan’s two-year schools to award bachelor’s degrees in more fields, something now limited to four-year universities in the state.
Both schools support Senate Bill 98, which is pending in that chamber and would authorize community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees in nursing and four other technical fields.
“If this happened this afternoon, I’d be ready tomorrow,” Schoolcraft President Conway Jeffress said. Should legislation be approved, he said, it would take at least a year before the program could start because of accreditation requirements and other preparations.
Community colleges say their bachelor’s degrees in nursing would target students who have earned enough credits for an associate degree and want to finish their four-year degree at home, including those who want to work full time or can’t move for classes or afford university tuition.
More than that, however, proponents of the bill say they’re motivated by a health care industry that increasingly desires nurses with four-year credentials.
“We wouldn’t be interested in the baccalaureate if the nursing profession hadn’t changed,” Jeffress said. “It’s so inevitable, you know, that whether it happens this season, next season or two seasons down the road, it’s coming. The question is whether Michigan is going to be a leader or a follower or an also-ran in the pack.”
Universities are the main challengers to the legislation. They argue that new programs would cost taxpayers more and that existing agreements with community colleges to allow students to transfer credits to complete their four-year degrees would be threatened.
Most community colleges say that they would offer completion programs for students who earn enough credits for an associate degree and that upper-level classes are mostly lecture-based rather than clinical practice.
At Schoolcraft, Jeffress said he would expect to hire at least one full-time faculty member to teach upper-level classes, while the rest could be filled with part-time instructors.
He doesn’t plan to raise tuition, which this fall will be $96 per credit hour for residents of the Livonia, Clarenceville, Garden City, Plymouth-Canton and Northville school districts and a portion of the Novi school district.
Nonresident students will pay $139 per credit hour.
Henry Ford, which awards associate degrees to roughly 240 nursing students each year, could increase tuition slightly for upper-level courses because of the need for more doctorate-qualified instructors, President Stan Jensen said.
The college this fall will charge $92 per credit hour to residents of the Dearborn school district and a portion of the Dearborn Heights district. More than 70 percent of Henry Ford’s students come from outside the district — namely Detroit or Downriver communities, Jensen said — and they will pay $158 per credit hour.
Even with a small tuition bump, Jensen said, a nursing bachelor’s degree at Henry Ford would cost less than at a university.