Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Four-year degree program OK’d

University regents on the Academic, Research and Student Affairs committee approved the first four-year degree proposal at the Community College of Southern Nevada after an hour and a half of questions Thursday.

Several regents on the committee said they were wary of approving a bachelor's degree program at the community college level. But five of the six regents approved the program because they said it met the board's criteria in allowing a niche bachelor's degree at a community college and because the program was driven by student need.

Regents Howard Rosenberg and Steve Sisolak also said they were concerned that the board was approving a four-year degree program when former president Ron Remington and lobbyist John Cummings were both demoted in part because they had pursued four-year degrees.

Neither Remington's nor Cummings' involvement in seeking four-year degrees was discussed in the meeting because neither had been legally informed they would be discussed, as required by the state open-meeting law.

But Rosenberg, who made the motion to approve the program, made sure his colleagues understood the irony without naming specific individuals.

"Essentially two careers are stalled because of four-year programs, and I'm concerned about the perception of the public when we opposed one thing and then now approve the thing we opposed," Rosenberg said.

Only Regent Tom Kirkpatrick voted against the program on what he called "philosophical" reasons. Kirkpatrick had bombarded Robert Palinchak, the community college's vice president of academic affairs, and Theresa Raglin, director of the dental sciences program, with questions for more than an hour.

Many of his concerns were of a practical nature, as Kirkpatrick said he feared the program did not adequately address issues such cost, space, extra staff needs and accreditation. But the heart of Kirkpatrick's arguments against the program, which he said he wished he could approve, was that it would lead to further "mission creep" throughout the system.

"My concern is that we never, never lose the concept of what the community college is all about -- providing initial access to higher education," Kirkpatrick said.

Regent Doug Seastrand similarly questioned Jane Nichols, University and Community College System of Nevada chancellor, on whether approving the four-year degree program would be "opening up a Pandora's box" of further four-year degrees at community colleges.

"I think it will be incumbent upon this board to keep this door cracked open and not wide open," Nichols said.

As with the dental hygiene program, all future four-year degrees considered for community colleges must be "very narrowly defined programs that are not duplicated elsewhere," Nichols said.

No other institution in Nevada has any interest in offering a bachelor's in dental hygiene, Nichols said.

The bachelor's degree allows dental hygienists to further their education and to go into areas of education, research or public oral health services, Raglin said.

If approved by the full board this afternoon, the degree would begin in the fall and serve an estimated 60 students.

The committee also unanimously approved on Thursday a doctoral program in nursing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which was to come before the full board this afternoon.

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