A Higher Degree

Why Spokane community colleges are now offering four-year degrees

A Higher Degree
Young Kwak
Ron Price teaches a computer ethics and law class at Spokane Falls Community College.

For some job fields, an associate degree used to be enough to earn a job and move up to a higher-paying position. But recently, in fields like cybersecurity, employers are now looking for something more.

That's why Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College both now offer select Bachelor of Applied Science degrees. It's a relatively new trend for community colleges and a way of keeping up with the changing workforce, says Andrew Feldman, vice president of learning for SFCC.

"We're trying to think forward here and meet the community needs, so we're always looking at the jobs and the training trends," Feldman says.

In the 2017-18 school year, SFCC began offering a BAS degree in cybersecurity. A majority of employers seek at least a four-year degree for cybersecurity jobs, and the need for those jobs projects to grow by 26 percent over the next decade in Spokane alone, according to EMSI, a labor analytics company.

The cybersecurity degree is in addition to BAS degrees in applied management and information systems and technology.

Spokane Community College, meanwhile, began offering its first BAS degree last year in respiratory therapy. The American Association for Respiratory Care pushed for a bachelor's degree to be the minimum education required for the profession by 2020. Demand for respiratory therapists is expected to increase by 21 percent in the state by 2020, according to EMSI data.

At least two dozen other community and technical colleges in Washington state offer BAS degrees. And that's no coincidence. A couple years ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges approved the idea for BAS degrees. Since then, colleges have added the degrees. The college decides on the degrees after input from advisory councils that work with faculty and various programs within the college, Feldman says.

The programs are especially helpful for those already in the workforce who need the degree for a pay bump. Much of the coursework, Feldman says, can be done online. So students don't always need to come to campus, depending on their schedule, but they can still get the education they need to move up.

Feldman says SFCC will continue to look for needs in the community when it comes to BAS degrees, especially in the area of computer science.

"We're always looking at how we can be agile enough as a community college to serve our community well," Feldman says.

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione is the Inlander’s news editor. Aside from writing and editing investigative news stories, he enjoys hiking, watching basketball and spending time with his wife and cat.