Updated June 14, 12:51 p.m.: Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday signed Senate Bill 2118, which allows community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing and applied science and technology.

The law goes into effect immediately.

Posted May 30: A bill that would allow Texas community colleges to offer students four-year degrees in certain areas of study is now on the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Senate Bill 2118, proposed by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would allow community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in nursing and applied science and technology, including an applied science program with an emphasis on early childhood education.

Austin Community College has been pursuing the four-year nursing degree for several years, and ACC President and CEO Richard Rhodes said in a statement he was thankful for the support from the Legislature.

"As the bill heads to the governor's desk, ACC remains committed to building affordable and accessible pathways that will answer the state's nursing crisis and provide students new learning opportunities," he said.

Community colleges would be limited to offering three bachelor's degree programs at any time, with the exception of the three community colleges which were previously granted authority to offer the four-year degrees—Midland College, Brazosport College and South Texas College. Those schools can offer as many as five four-year programs.

Here's what community colleges must now do before they can begin offering the four-year programs:

  • Receive accreditation from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

  • For nursing degrees, provide evidence to the coordinating board and the Texas Board of Nursing that the school has secured adequate long-term clinical space;

  • Prove to the coordinating board that the program will fulfill a workforce need and that it cannot meet that need with the college's current available programs

  • Show that the program is comparable in quality and rigor to those offered at four-year universities

  • Show that based on job placement rates and licensing exam scores, the program being offered has been successful in the past

  • Demonstrate that the school can maintain or exceed the student enrollment numbers for the program

In addition, community colleges will have to conduct a review and write a report to the coordinating board every two years assessing the programs.

Since the bill was passed with a two-thirds vote in both the house and the senate, it can take effect immediately after Abbott signs it.

In a news conference Tuesday, the coordinating board's commissioner, Raymund Paredes, said he was pleased with the approval of the bill.

"We think [the bill] might encourage poor students to think about achieving [bachelor's] degrees," he said.

Paredes said he thinks it will take several years before community colleges begin offering the four-year programs, mostly because of the high standards that need to be met and the costs associated with hiring faculty as well as providing the appropriate facilities for study.

"We don't expect that there will be a stampede among community colleges to offer these degrees," he said. "It's significant that community colleges want to stick to their core mission of certificates and associate degrees."