Houston Community College Opens First Two Undergraduate Programs

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado addressed the audience at the George R. Brown Convention Center with a speech on the state of the college.

Laura Isensi

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado addressed the audience at the George R. Brown Convention Center with a speech on the state of the college.

Houston Community College will offer two new undergraduate programs starting in autumn 2023. Students can complete a four-year degree in Applied Technology in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Applied Science in Health Management.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to offer these two degrees because we know we’re giving students the opportunity to start and complete their four-year education at the same campus or college,” said the Vice Chancellor of Learning Services and Supervisor. Academic Officer Norma Perez.

Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 2118 in 2017, allowing the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Council to allow public junior colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in applied science, applied technology, and nursing. In 2019 House Bill 3348 was signed, increasing the number of degrees junior colleges can offer to five.

In December, HCC was approved by the College Commission of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a level 2 bachelor’s degree-granting institution.

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado said in a statement: “We are constantly exploring ways to deliver relevant programs and training that meet the needs of students and employers in our service industry,” he said. “Through these first two undergraduate programs, we are giving students the opportunity to begin and complete their four-year education on the same HCC campus.”

Perez said that when House Bill 3348 was signed, she knew the college needed to expand its academic portfolio.

“When this change was made to five, we felt we needed to start meeting the demand and give our students the opportunity to earn degrees,” she said. “So we decided to go ahead and start the process of making this change.”

There is a high demand for a workforce with both degrees in the Houston area, Perez said. In fact, HCC was the first college in Texas to offer an associate’s degree in artificial intelligence. Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in artificial intelligence can enter the profession, which currently has about 3,500 open positions with an average annual salary of about $97,000.

“We all know that artificial intelligence is really evolving,” Perez said. “And we’re going to see more and more of that, so we just wanted to make sure we’re ready to meet the needs of our workforce in this area.”

HCC currently has a number of medical science programs – respiratory therapy, radiography, sonography and others. A graduate with a health management degree has access to approximately 1,700 annual job openings and a starting average annual salary of around $64,000, according to the school. Perez said a health management degree expands students’ knowledge so they can take on leadership positions.

“Healthcare is one of the growing professions in our city, and of course we have the largest medical center,” she said. “And so the degree will allow these people to advance their careers by giving them back the leadership skills and knowledge they will need in healthcare management.”

Perez said the school still wants to keep the structure of the institution even with expanded degree options.

“The only thing we want to keep in mind is that we want to keep costs down for students,” she said. “As you know, community colleges are mostly known for their low cost as well as small class sizes, so we hope to keep the same concept as we do when we implement our bachelor’s degrees.”

HCC currently has “opened door admissions policy and its student population is mostly made up of minority students. Both degrees are offered to students who are attending HCC, as well as students from other community colleges or universities whose first two years of study meet the degree requirements.

HCC is still working on defining the admission requirements and tuition fees for the new undergraduate programs.

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texasstandard.news contributed to this report.

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