Saturday, March 22, 2008

2+2+2 = Bachelor of Applied Science

Over at my No Sno U blog I complain about the proposal to take 20 years and $1 billion to "git us some more of them there college deegrees". My argument is that we can deliver the education people need in a lot less time for a lot less money than building another stand-alone campus. When you factor in the current college drop out rate, a different method of delivering that education might be helpful too. We have one good example already at work.

I sat down with Shani over at the Central Washington University (CWU) Lynnwood campus two weeks ago to talk about their Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Technology and Administrative Management (BAS-ITAM). The program allows students with an Associate's degree in a computer field and 2000 hours of work experience to earn their Bachelor's degree at CWU in a program geared toward working professionals (evening, Saturday, online classes). Here is what I find compelling about the program:

  • The ATA degree is no longer terminal. Formerly the credits you earned for your Associate's of Technical Arts (ATA) degree couldn't be transferred and used toward a bachelor degree. With the BAS-ITAM program those community college students have a path to the additional education they need to move up in their chosen career. It saves both the student and the state money (the state would subsidize 4 years of education, not 6).
  • Not everyone thrives at the ivy-covered university. I loved everything about the university experience, but that's me. There's another 70% of the population that isn't so thrilled to "compare and contrast" great literary works. The BAS-ITAM gives people that are more career focused an opportunity to include their work experience as part of their education. For many people, work experience provides the context and relevance that they need to really learn the material they are studying.
  • It leverages our full educational system. The BAS-ITAM program focuses on managerial and breadth-of-knowledge classes while allowing the community college to focus on the technical classes. Not explicitly stated in the ITAM programs is the fact that high school students can earn both high school and college credit for some of their high school classes through a program called Tech Prep. Both Edmonds CC (EdCC) and Everett CC (EvCC) have Tech Prep programs with local schools. That's a money saving way for students to get a jump start on their associates and focus more of their community college credits on advanced classes or internships. Does the title of this post make sense now? 2 years in high school + 2 years in CC + 2 years at CWU = BAS-ITAM.
  • It focuses on the higher value business skills that are critical in corporate IS. I can't speak to IT in a high-tech company (Microsoft, for example), but the coursework in the program would definitely benefit anyone in corporate IS, whether they wanted to get into management, project management or systems analysis. These are the skills that help an individual demonstrate value to the organization and lift them to the next level of their career. Most important, these are skills that are less likely to get outsourced.
So let's think about this for a minute. With a little planning, a student starting her junior year in high school in the fall of 2008 could have a high school diploma, associates of technical arts in computer information systems, bachelors of applied science in information technology and administrative management, one year internship and two years of work experience by June 2014. How is this not a good thing?

Here is the hard part fellow board members and other IT professionals. We need to step up to the plate and support programs like this by offering internships and hiring the graduates. We need to make sure our employees can use their tuition reimbursement benefit for programs like these. We need to make sure the state funds the work it takes to align high school, community college and university programs so we get the most for our dollar. Finally we need to make sure our top people are participating on advisory boards or guest lecturing, where appropriate, so that the content of courses remains relevant to the corporate IS environment.

I'm not an expert on this, just a board member. Prospective students, whether in high school, a CC or already in the work world, should contact the folks at CWU Lynnwood, CIS program at EdCC or the CIS program at EvCC for all the details.

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