In this file photo, Andrew Shepherd, who heads Sinclair Community College’s unmanned aerial vehicles program, stands next to a version of Unmanned Solutions Technology’s Pelican II fixed-wing UAV. Sinclair is a step closer to offering three bachelor’s degrees, two aviation-related and one in industrial automation. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF ORIGINAL Andrew Shepherd, who heads Sinclair Community College’s unmanned aerial vehicles program, stands next to a version of Unmanned Solutions Technology’s Pelican II fixed-wing UAV in July. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff

6 Ohio community colleges get initial approval for bachelor’s degrees

Ohio community colleges are another step closer to being able to offer bachelor’s degrees and one area school is on track to have the most four-year degrees right away.

The state has granted initial approval for nine applied bachelor’s degrees from six community colleges and Sinclair Community College leads the group with three proposals. One proposal from Clark State Community College received initial approval as did two from Cincinnati State.

INITIAL REPORT: Community colleges can now offer bachelor’s degrees

The public has until Dec. 22 to comment on the degree ideas posted on the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s website. After the deadline, the state will then submit the proposals for approval to the regional accrediting agency, Higher Learning Commission in Chicago, according to the state.

Cincinnati State Community & Technical College President Monica Posey has been an advocate for community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees for the past few years. FILE
Photo: Nick Daggy/File

The status of the nine proposals represents an extremely early step in approval process, said Kathleen Cleary, associate provost for student completion at Sinclair. Community colleges have been told to expect anywhere between 18 months and two years for the HLC to approve the degrees, Cleary said.

“We’re at the mercy of people’s timetables…We have only made it through the first round of the state process,” she said.

As part of the approval process, community colleges will likely each pay around $925 per degree proposal plus around $3,300 for a visit from the Higher Learning Commission, according to the commission’s website.

Sinclair has proposed degrees in unmanned aerial systems, industrial automation and aviation technology and professional piloting, according to the school’s submissions.

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Sinclair could spend more than $1.9 million to establish the three degree programs, according to the proposals. It would take Sinclair up to 10 years to fully recoup to create the programs. The school estimates the industrial automation program would generate a 167 percent return on investment one decade into its implementation while UAS could get a 132 percent return ten years in and aviation technology could garner a 112 percent return.

Sinclair charges around $100 per credit hour and would charge $200 per credit hour for courses that are needed strictly for a bachelor’s degree. It would cost students around $6,000 a year in their third and fourth years of study, Sinclair’s proposal shows.

“I think this is a great win for the state, for employers and especially for the students in our area,” Cleary said.

Clark State is aiming to offer a manufacturing technology management, which the school says would be the first of its kind in the area.

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The school could spend around $121,000 on new equipment and books in the first year implementation along with around $111,000 on renovations and additional equipment, according to its proposal. The school would charge around $140 per credit hour.

“The degree that we are proposing is really innovative and does not exist in the state,” Aimee Belanger-Haas, dean of business and applied technologies told the Springfield News-Sun. “It will give students the chance to have a degree in advanced technology issues with a management style.”

Community colleges in Ohio have aspired to offer bachelor’s degrees for years but they received a defeating push-back until this year. Gov. John Kasich signed into law the concept of specialized four-year degrees at two-year schools in June when he signed into law his last state budget.

Even with the new law, the state appears to be taking a measured approach to how it approves new bachelor’s degrees.

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Each school applying to offer the degrees has to go through multiple rounds of approval and a potential “stakeholder meeting.” John Carey, chancellor of Ohio’s public college system, also plans to consult with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, the Inter-University Council of Ohio, the Ohio Association of Community Colleges and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio.

“Taking a measured approach is a good way to put it. They’re trying to do the right thing for the state,” Cleary said. “They’re being appropriately cautious moving forward but they also know it’s what’s needed.”