CCs fear ‘degree creep’ in health fields

Community college leaders fear “degree creep” could destroy very successful associate degree programs in nursing, respiratory therapy and other health-care fields,  reports Community Colleges Times. Requiring a four-year degree also is under discussion for nuclear medicine technicians, radiographers, dental hygienists and dieticians. These are among the most lucrative associate degree programs at community colleges.

Respiratory care therapists with associate degrees do as well on state licensure exams as those with bachelor’s degrees, said Barbara Jones, president of South Arkansas Community College. Degree creep is “a real threat,” she said.

Degree creep has been an issue in nursing for years, but it gained momentum last fall when an Institute of Medicine (IOM) reportcalled for 80 percent of the nation’s registered nurses to have bachelor’s degrees by 2020.

. . . “For some students, the only way to get into a health career is to take it a chunk at a time. Requiring a bachelor’s degree would make health careers inaccessible to many people,” said (Carolyn) O’Daniel, who is dean of allied health and nursing at Jefferson Community and Technical College in Kentucky.

Nurses with associate and bachelor’s degrees show comparable levels of competence on licensing exams, according to a recent American Association of Community Colleges policy brief.