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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bonnen Garners Additional $1 million for Brazosport College 4-year Degree Program

Insiders Report

Vol. 9 No. 14

One of my greatest accomplishments and proudest moments in the Texas Legislature was the creation of a four-year baccalaureate degree program at Brazosport College and two other community colleges in Texas.  Since its inception a decade ago, I have had several subsequent legislative victories to expand upon and adequately fund the program.  This most recent legislative session was no different.

Building upon Brazosport College's momentum of success, I amended the state budget bill, SB 1, to dedicate an additional $1 million for the upcoming biennium towards the baccalaureate degree program.  SB 1 was signed into law by the Governor this past weekend.  My efforts support the continued expansion of this program by enabling the college to offer additional four-year degree programs in various fields of study to meet area workforce needs.

Brazosport College has overwhelmingly demonstrated that it is well-positioned to offer affordable and accessible four-year degree programs that not only provide a tremendous opportunity for career growth to non-traditional students, but also benefit our local industry by answering local employment needs. However, funding has not been our only challenge with regards to these innovative programs.  Although I have vocally advocated and worked to educate the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board regarding the tremendous value of this program, it has often been an uphill battle overcoming the opinion that a baccalaureate degree can only be effectively offered through a traditional four-year college or university. 

With the guidance of Dr. Millicent Valek prior to the 2013 session, I began crafting legislation to ease the restrictions placed upon the three community colleges offering 4-year degree programs when they wish to add a new degree plan.  This is a win-win for our entire community, and Brazosport College desires to once again step up to the plate by expanding degree offerings.  To assist the college in this endeavor, I successfully amended SB 215, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Sunset bill passed by the Texas Legislature, to grant greater flexibility and a shortened timeline in this pursuit.

What started out as a lunch conversation with Dr. Valek back in 2003, during which she planted the seed for the creation of a baccalaureate program at Brazosport College, has become a huge academic success in our backyard.  The college has also distinguished itself as a beacon of excellence in higher education with national recognition as one of only ten colleges in the nation -- and the only one in Texas -- to be selected as a finalist for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.  I have proudly declared to the Texas Legislature that Brazosport College is a thriving example for the entire State of Texas that a baccalaureate degree is attainable for all who desire to achieve this dream.