TSJC will pursue nursing degree permitted under newly approved state legislation

ALAMOSA — With the passage of legislation allowing community colleges to offer Bachelor of Science degrees in nursing, Trinidad State Junior College confirmed it will be pursuing such a degree.

“Our intention is to push forward with it because we want to have our director of nursing involved as they’re developing the curriculum at the state level,” Trinidad State Junior College President Dr. Carmen Simone stated on Tuesday. “We want to have a seat at the table and help steer what the program looks like. We think it’s really important to have the rural perspective heard when those decisions are made.”

Simone added that she believed TSJC would be part of a group of community colleges that will move forward with a Bachelor of Science in nursing as a unified curriculum, though each institution will offer the degree on its own.

She stated that the earliest the program could be launched would be the fall of 2019. “It takes quite a while to get the curriculum together and get the approvals in place, not only through the state, but the accrediting organizations also,” she stated.

House Bill 18-1086, which became law on March 24 without the governor’s signature, allows a community college that is part of the state system of community and technical colleges to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing as a completion degree with the approval of the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education. In considering a request from a community college to offer a nursing degree, the state board will consider student and workforce demand, cost effectiveness for students, and accreditation and licensing requirements.

At least 90 days prior to requesting board approval to offer a nursing degree, a community college must provide notice of its request to all state institutions of higher education.

The legislation also requires annual reporting.

Governor John Hickenlooper sent this bill to the Secretary of State without his signature on Friday partially because he stated he had concerns with the community college board having authority over this type of degree rather than the Commission on Higher Education. He maintained that this kind of expansion of the community college board’s authority “could lead to program duplication and inefficiencies in the higher education system.”

Hickenlooper also did not believe the bill’s proponents received enough input from “all relevant stakeholders and higher education institutions” before drafting the bill.

The governor did, however, acknowledge that he understood the goal of the legislation in helping to alleviate the shortage of nursing professionals in Colorado. “We believe a strong and coordinated statewide approach is necessary to effectively address this shortage,” he stated.

He directed the Commission on Higher education to “convene the appropriate stakeholders to understand where the industry is moving and how best to align educational programs with those trends. Colorado should lead on addressing this matter, identifying solutions, and implementing action plans.”