Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed SB 2118 into law, which allows the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to authorize baccalaureate degree programs at one or more public junior colleges. Lone Star College, which already has a strong R.N. program in place, plans to offer a R.N. to B.S.N. program, as well as a bachelor’s in applied technology.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 2118 on June 12, which allows the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to authorize certain public junior colleges to offer baccalaureate degree programs in the fields of applied science, applied technology and nursing.

“The state of Texas and the greater Houston metro area are facing a severe shortage of nurses and technically skilled labor,” said Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., Lone Star College (LSC) chancellor. “This new law will allow Lone Star College to offer our students the opportunity to earn their four-year degrees in nursing and applied technology here, affordably and close to home.”

Lone Star College will develop proposals for a bachelor of science in nursing and a bachelor of applied technology (B.A.T.) for approval by the THECB and the Texas Board of Nursing. The proposals will include details on the program and course delivery, along with details on existing articulation agreements, dual credit agreements, clinical capacity and faculty recruitment plans.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a goal of 80 percent of all nurses having a bachelor’s degree by 2020 in order to best prepare nurses to care for sicker patients and to use sophisticated new technologies.

In the past five years, 2,040 LSC students earned an associate's degree in nursing. LSC is developing its R.N. to B.S.N. program specifically for nurses who have completed their associate's degree and subsequent R.N. license to advance their professional qualifications while continuing to live and work within the local Houston region.

“Completion of an R.N.-to-B.S.N. program also prepares registered nurses to enroll in advanced degree programs,” according to the Texas Academic Progression in Nursing, a nonprofit group dedicated to increasing the number of nurses with baccalaureate degrees. “Advanced education prepares them to serve as primary care providers, researchers and faculty, as well as leaders in a wide range of health care settings. All of these roles are currently in high demand and will continue to be opportunities for well-prepared nurses as nursing and health care continue to evolve.”

With SB 2118 becoming law – effective immediately – and once LSC has completed the required processes to implement its bachelor’s program, LSC nursing students can earn their B.S.N. close to home and at a much lower tuition than at a four-year school.

“Implementing a R.N. to B.S.N. program is a win-win for the local community and the licensed R.N.s who want to continue their education,” said Head, who was an instrumental participant in the effort to get the bill passed in the recent legislative session. “We are grateful that our state legislators recognized that LSC will provide a high quality education at an affordable price.”

LSC will also develop programs to offer B.A.T.s in welding, process technology, oil and gas, and cybersecurity to address serious skilled labor shortages in those fields. The B.A.T. degree program is intended to provide individuals possessing strong technical expertise with the background skills required to help them become effective workplace managers.

The timeline for starting the new bachelor’s programs at Lone Star College will depend on the approval process, said Head, although LSC already has the necessary facilities and faculty members in place today to offer both B.A.T.s and B.S.N.s.

In addition to state approvals, LSC must get program approval from its accreditation agency, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

“We are grateful for the tireless efforts of the legislators who made this bill a reality and look forward to this next chapter in our history of providing high-quality education to help keep our community prosperous,” said Head.