Collin College’s plan to offer more bachelor’s degrees will help address gaps in workforce training and offer a more affordable path to higher education for students.

One planned addition is a construction management bachelor’s degree that could be offered at Collin College as early as fall 2022. That would be the third bachelor’s degree path available at Collin College, joining nursing and cybersecurity.

"Any degree that we offer must offer [the] opportunity for our graduates to get a job and move ahead in life,” said Abe Johnson, Collin College’s senior vice president of campus operations.

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree through Collin College is more affordable than the traditional university route, Johnson said. Collin County residents can save more than 80% when compared to the average cost for two semesters at a public state university, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Plano ISD offers career and technical education courses that tie into many of the degrees and certifications offered by Collin College. This includes the opportunity to participate in the Collin College Industries Academy Construction Management program. This program provides career-specific training and industry certifications, according to Karen Buechman, PISD’s Career & Technical Education director.

Career and technical education programs like those are valuable to economically disadvantaged students, said Renda Songer, teaching and learning consultant at Region 10 Education Service Center. Region 10 offers professional development and other assistance to North Texas school districts.

“We know that over 60% of students come back and make their living right around the area that they attended high school,” Songer said. “If we’re preparing students for careers that don’t exist within their regional area, we’re preparing them to have to move away from home in order to earn a living.”

Need for construction workforce

Graduates with a bachelor’s degree in construction management have the opportunity to seek entry-level positions that offer an annual starting pay of around $90,000, according to Collin College staff.

Songer said construction-related classes are likely to expand in local high schools if Collin College is approved to offer a construction management degree.

"There’s so many [job] openings right now, but we just expect those openings to expand over the next decade,” Songer said of the construction industry.

Collin College’s plan for the construction management degree came about after doing an analysis that indicated a high demand for industry workers who could fulfill those roles.

“There was a lot of work done on the front end to gather the information from the community on where the workforce jobs are,” said Sherry Schumann, Collin College executive vice president, of preparations for each of the college’s degree programs.

Existing bachelor’s programs

In 2017, Collin College was among the first community colleges in Texas to be approved to offer bachelor’s degree programs. The college began its cybersecurity and registered nurse degree programs in 2020.

Schumann said bachelor’s degrees are designed to build on the college’s existing associate-level programs.

In addition to cost savings, the college’s instructors are a huge draw for students interested in the bachelor’s degree programs, Cybersecurity Program Director Ervin Frenzel said.

“We have probably the best group of instructors I’ve ever seen,” said Frenzel, who has worked in cybersecurity for 33 years.

Betty Veasy, Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program director, said Collin College has developed an outstanding reputation in the community for its affordable degree programs and its instructors.

“We start networking with the students on the associate’s level and the vocational level to see where they are and to see what their aspirations are,” Veasy said.

While the cybersecurity degree is a two-year program for students with an associate degree, Veasy said full-time students with a registered nurse degree can complete the nursing bachelor’s degree program in just two semesters.

“Nursing is vast, and a lot of the hospitals in our community are seeking magnet status,” Veasy said of career opportunities for nursing graduates. “In order to hold a magnet status [accreditation], each hospital has to have so many nurses that are baccalaureate-prepared.”

Students in the college’s other bachelor’s program also have a wide variety of career opportunities, Frenzel said.

“There’s actually 28 career fields inside of cybersecurity,” he said. “One of the best definitions I’ve ever heard was cybersecurity is any and all measures taken to protect a digital asset.”

Next steps

While the construction management degree program was approved by the college’s board earlier this year, Schumann said there are still several steps and approvals needed before it becomes official. Chief among those are approvals from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

“[If] everything goes smoothly, it can take as much [as] a year to a year and a half before we’re actually through those approval processes,” Schumann said.

Collin College was authorized earlier this year to offer up to five bachelor’s degree programs. Johnson said the college is evaluating data about future programs that would benefit current students and the community.

“We are community-centered, and we want to continue to offer affordable higher education opportunities for our communities,” he said. “Every partnership [with the college] is crucial, whether it’s an [independent school district] or ... business and industry leadership. All of these are very key stakeholders in our collaboration as we move into deciding on programs.”

Brooklynn Cooper contributed to this report.