Another 2-year school offers 4-year degrees
By ANITA KUMAR, Times Staff Writer
TALLAHASSEE -- Following in the footsteps of St. Petersburg College, Miami-Dade Community College will begin offering four-year college degrees.
The Florida Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the South Florida college to offer baccalaureate degrees, though some members expressed reservations about creating a new level of colleges in the state.
"I'd like to hear some discussion on where we are going," said board member Bill Proctor. "Are we creating a third tier?"
The prospect of allowing community colleges to grant four-year degrees stirs up potential turf battles in higher education and calls into question the missions of community colleges and universities.
Miami-Dade will become only the second community college to offer four-year degrees, after St. Petersburg College.
Two other schools, Chipola Junior College in the Panhandle and Edison Community College in Fort Myers, initially asked the board for permission to offer baccalaureate degrees but agreed to join partnerships with state universities instead.
Under the proposal, Florida State University will offer teaching, nursing and business administration degrees at Chipola, and Florida Gulf Coast University will offer computer technology and public administration degrees at Edison.
"Our goal was to serve needs identified by our students," said Kenneth Walker, president of Edison College. "We think this is good for our students."
The group that reviews proposals such as these, the Council for Education Policy, Research and Improvement, had recommended the proposals be rejected. But Education Secretary Jim Horne said the schools met the criteria.
Horne, who made recommendations to the board, said he agreed with the council's process but not its conclusions. "We want to help nontraditional students not going to universities," he said.
The state Legislature approved $3-million for schools statewide offering four-year degrees. Horne will work out details of the programs and allocate money.
"It is commendable that the board is expanding opportunities so that as many Floridians as possible can gain higher-level degrees, especially in the areas of teaching and nursing," Gov. Jeb Bush said.
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