Whatcom Community College is planning to offer a new, online, bachelor of applied science degree in applied business management. The degree was recently approved by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and is pending approval from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The new BAS degree is expected to open for enrollment in winter 2020 and classes are slated to begin in the fall of 2020.
Implementing the new BAS degree will support the needs of students and the growing demand in Whatcom County for more bachelor-level graduates. According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, the average annual openings for business management related positions in Whatcom County, between the period of 2016-2026, was 1,705. However, the area is currently only producing about 217 graduates with a four-year degree in business.
The BAS degree adds to the list of four-year programs offered by community colleges since it was approved by the Washington State Legislature in 2005. The shift is in response to higher education not keeping up with the demand for positions that required bachelor’s degrees, primarily in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, said Janice Walker, dean for workforce education at WCC. Walker has been at WCC for nine years and helps develop new programs based on workforce demand.
“The new program was developed primarily because the industry is saying they can’t hire enough people,” Walker said.“They need more bachelor-level graduates entering the workforce.”
Workforce demand statistics demonstrated that there was a need for increased skills in areas like human resources management, digital marketing, and operations management beyond what Whatcom’s two-year program offers, Walker said. The college worked with several stakeholders including the Chamber of Commerce, regional business owners and students to offer students advanced options and help bridge the gap between employer and employee.
Coursework in the program focuses on areas such as project management, financial management, human resources for managers and business sustainability. The new BAS builds upon Whatcom’s associate in science – business administration degree and compliments other fields of study such as accounting, finance and hospitality.
Affordability and accessibility are two factors that will make this degree more attainable for some students. Alexandra Moa, 30, has lived most of her life in the Mount Baker foothills and plans to pursue the new BAS being offered at Whatcom. Moa started at Whatcom in the fall of 2017 and graduated with her associate’s degree in June. She was a recipient of several scholarships and the secretary of the business club at Whatcom. She plans to use the knowledge and skills gained from the degree to advance her cosmetology business as well as help a local blueberry farm with marketing strategies.
Moa is a mother of a 10-year-old daughter and said the degree being online, in conjunction with on-campus support, was a major factor for her because it allowed her the flexibility to juggle her other roles outside of the classroom. “It makes it much more attainable for people like me who are working and have other responsibilities outside of just school,” Moa said.“If Whatcom didn’t start this program, I would be limited to an associates degree because my regular life keeps me from the luxury of attending a pricey four-year university.”
Tuition costs for the BAS will be considerably cheaper than some of the other four-year universities in the region such as Western Washington University or The University of Washington. Tuition costs for a BAS at Whatcom is roughly $23,580. The cost of tuition for four years at Western is roughly $33,372 and four years at UW is roughly $45,860. By earning a bachelor’s from a community college students could potentially save thousands of dollars.
About 185 students on average are pursuing an associate of business every year at Whatcom, said Trish Newbold, workforce education coordinator. To be eligible to apply students must have an associate’s degree with a cumulative 2.0 GPA and a 2.3 GPA in business-related coursework. This is the colleges’ second bachelor degree being offered in addition to their BAS degree in IT networking and cybersecurity.