|It's official! Administrators, faculty and staff are celebrating a new era at St. Johns River Community College after nearly two years of planning and research. The College has been granted final approval to offer its first two baccalaureate degrees from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
As stated on the SACS Web site, the approval means the College has moved from a Level I to a Level II accredited institution, allowing it to offer bachelor's degrees in Early Childhood Education and Organizational Management beginning in January 2011. The College received approval from the State Board of Education in March.
"We all share an overwhelming sense of pride, accomplishment and relief to be able to tell our communities that this opportunity is now available to them," said SJRCC President Joe Pickens, J.D. "This demonstrates the College's commitment to enhance its training and answer the district's workforce needs."
Pickens said local access to the degrees will help very capable students reach their potential. "Many residents do not have the time or funds to travel out of town to further their education, especially those with family and work responsibilities," Pickens said. "We are opening big doors for students with big plans. Opportunity is everything."
Supporting the College's baccalaureate programs is the absence of a public four-year institution in Clay, Putnam and St. Johns counties. Statistics have also indicated a positive impact on the district's economic development. "Approval gives our communities the opportunity to measure up to the state's statistics. While fifteen percent of the state's population holds a bachelor's degree, only six percent of Putnam residents possess them," Pickens said. "Not having local access to a four-year institution plays a huge role in those statistics."
According to SJRCC's Vice President for Research and Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Rosalind Humerick, who headed the initial baccalaureate task force, the College selected the two bachelor's degrees following a community survey and confirmation by a comprehensive analysis for workforce needs.
Humerick said the Early Childhood Education program would prepare local residents to fill a gap in the projected demand for pre-K through third grade teachers during the next three years. The program would also help fulfill the state's 2013 goal of requiring 50% of its Head Start teachers to possess a bachelor's degree.
Dr. Melanie Brown, SJRCC's Vice President for the Open Campus and Program Innovation, said the school districts in Putnam, Clay, and St. Johns counties have expressed an ongoing need for highly qualified, certified teachers with the Reading and ESOL Endorsements. The new degree program has those endorsements infused and was designed to specifically meet the demand. "Obtaining the approval required to implement this degree would not have happened had it not been for SJRCC's long history of collaboration with the school districts," Brown said.
Anna Lebesch, SJRCC's Vice President for Workforce Development, said the Organizational Management program could supply potential employees to fill a projected 241 annual job openings in the next five years. "It's an excellent opportunity for those already employed to advance within their chosen careers," Lebesch said.