Bachelor of Applied Sciences Degree Program: A New and Innovative Collaboration between a Land Grant University and Community Colleges

Article excerpt

Abstract

The College of Agriculture, University of Wyoming (UW), in collaboration with the UW Outreach School and the state's community colleges, developed a new and innovative Bachelor of Applied Sciences Degree (BAS) program. The online-only program serves a new authence, students who earned an associate of applied science (AAS) degree and have a minimum of two years work experience. Prior to the BAS, these community college graduates had no opportunity for professional advancement within their chosen professions if a baccalaureate degree was required. The BAS degree program was designed to utilize appropriate course credits and fill the gaps toward completing a four year university degree and to serve place bound professionals. The process for doing so was highly collaborative, involving all of Wyoming's community colleges, several UW academic departments and colleges, and support staff university-wide. The program has successfully enrolled students from a broad array of professional disciplines and produced its first graduate in the brief time span of two years. The systems view of organizing such a program and the curriculum described herein may serve as a model for other universities striving to meet the forecasted higher national demands by non-traditional students for online education in their professional fields.

Literature Review

No one disputes that there are benefits to having a four-year degree. Day and Newburger (2002) noted that over their work lives, individuals who have a bachelor's degree will earn about a third more than workers who did not finish college and nearly twice as much as workers with only a high school diploma. Carnevale et al. (2009) asserted that post-secondary education is needed more than ever because:

Every year more than a third of the entire U.S. labor force changes jobs.

Every year, more than 30 billion Americans are working in jobs that did not exist in the previous quarter.

Many of the occupations workers have today did not exist five years ago.

Current research shows that most of the highpaying jobs of the future will require a bachelor's degree or higher and many will reside in health care, high tech, education, office, and energy-related jobs (Carnevale et al., 2009; Dohm and Shniper, 2007).

At the close of the 20th Century, Eastmond (1998) stated, "Rapidly changing societal and work environments demand continuous learning, and nontraditional students ...are the new majority, pursuing education for career development, job security, upward mobility, recareering, and other professional and personal reasons" (p. 33). With an everincreasing frequency, students who are classified as nontraditional are accessing higher education (Kilgore and Rice, 2003; Schuetze and Slowey, 2002), bringing with them unique learning needs. Nontraditional students have been defined in many ways: adult students aged 24 or older, those with vocational and/or work experience leading to an unconventional educational background, ethnic minority or immigrants, first-generation students, those from remote or rural areas, and other underrepresented groups (Donaldson and Townsend, 2007; Holder, 2007; Merriam and Caffarella, 1991; Schuetze and Slowey, 2002).

Of particular interest to this paper are those nontraditional students who fit the definitions above, hold an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree, and have a desire to continue their education. The AAS degree, primarily delivered at community colleges, is intended for students majoring in occupational fields who do not plan to transfer to a four-year institution. It is considered to be a terminal degree because it "consists of occupational or technical courses that are not required and thus are not transferable into conventional academic baccalaureate degrees" (Arney et al, 2006). Critics of the AAS state that these programs do not prepare students with the higher-level skills necessary for management or other higher paid career paths (Brint and Karabel, 1989; Dougherty, 1994). …