College of DuPage officials discuss offering bachelor's degrees

GLEN ELLYN – College of DuPage officials are discussing the possibility of offering four-year degrees in the near future.

The benefits and detriments of expanding college programs to include bachelor’s degrees were among several topics addressed at a Board of Trustees meeting March 6.

“Higher levels of education are becoming prerequisite for many jobs,” said Vice President of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness James Bente.

College administrators cited programs in the applied sciences, such as automotive technology, manufacturing, industrial management, computer information and systems technologies as potential four-year options.

“The reality is, if you really want to get into leadership roles in those areas … things like a bachelor’s of applied science degree is very needed these days,” Bente said.

However, trustees expressed concern that adding four-year degrees could affect the college’s mid-level marketplace position and drive up its prices.

“I think that we need to be concerned, not only for mission creep, but also for price creep,” said Vice Chairman Kathy Hamilton.

At $144 per credit hour, College of DuPage is the second most expensive community college in the state, according to Vice President for Marketing and Communications Joe Moore.

Nonetheless, administrators said cost in relation to the addition of bachelor’s degrees need not be a deterrent.

Community colleges that have implemented four-year programs in the past have charged more for bachelor’s courses, and priced associate’s classes the same way they had been previously, according to Vice President of Information Technology Charles Currier.

Bente said he didn’t think offering bachelor’s degrees would drive up salaries.

He also said that while many four-year institutions don’t want to add applied science degrees because of the cost, College of DuPage already has the staff, faculty and facilities to offer some bachelor’s programs.

Doing so could produce a more able local workforce, he said.

President Robert Breuder said College of DuPage experiences the potential of losing students who leave the area to pursue four-year degrees elsewhere.

For example, the only option in the state where a student can obtain a bachelor’s degree in public automotive technology is at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, administrators said.

Currently, it is not legal for community colleges in Illinois to offer four-year degrees, according to Breuder.

In order for that to change, an institution would have to provide an impetus for community colleges to offer such programs, he said.

College of DuPage is the state’s largest community college, and Breuder said it could fill that role.

An effort to allow community colleges to expand their offerings would not be successful, he said, without the support of the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Community College Trustees Association.

Breuder led a push to legalize bachelor’s degrees at community colleges when he was president of Harper College several years ago.

Today, 22 states have authorized limited four-year programs for community colleges, Breuder said, and he hopes to see Illinois join their ranks in the next two years.

“I think this discussion, this whole idea of offering bachelor’s degrees, is critical,” said trustee Nancy Svoboda.