South Texas College is responding actively to a call for a significant increase in Bachelor-trained nurses by the next decade.

The Institute of Medicine, now called the National Academy of Medicine, is recommending at least an 80 percent increase in the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce by 2020. As a result of SB 2118 passed during the 85th Texas Legislative Session and signed by Governor Abbott, South Texas College will now address this demand by offering Bachelor degrees to registered nurses by fall 2018.

The Texas Legislature passed SB 2118, and Texas Governor Greg Abbot added his signature to the bill on June 11 that permits community colleges to offer certain baccalaureate programs in the fields of applied technology, applied science, early childhood education, and nursing.

STC currently offers four baccalaureate degree programs including Technology Management (TMGT) established in 2005, Computer and Information Technologies (CIT) established in 2008, Medical and Health Services Management (MHSSM) established in 2011, and Organizational Leadership-Competency Based (OL) established in 2014.

This bill opens the door for South Texas College to begin offering a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and allows for other Texas community colleges to offer up to three bachelor degrees in the aforementioned fields.

“The passing of SB 2118 granting South Texas College the legislative authority to offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing is great for our students, the community, and the region as well,” said Dr. Jayson Valerio, Interim Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. “This is a testimony that we are proactively responding to the healthcare needs of our community.”

STC held a media event on Monday morning with Valley lawmakers officially announcing the passage of SB 2118. Speakers at the event included Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Kathy Dassler, Chief Nursing Officer at Rio Grande Regional Hospital.

“A review of the Rio Grande Valley’s nursing workforce datasets confirms the need for more nurses, especially more nurses with higher degrees to meet the healthcare needs of a population with a greater prevalence of certain diseases along the U.S.-Mexico border,” Valerio said.

STC now starts a year-long process with the commitment to implement the program in fall 2018. The college will now submit a substantive change request to its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) for the authorization to offer the BSN, and a program prospectus to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for their approval.

The plan, according to leadership at STC, is to start an ADN-RN to BSN transition program. Students who completed the Associate Degree in Nursing and who are licensed Registered Nurses, will have an opportunity to return to South Texas College to complete their Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

During the recent Texas legislative session, a coalition of ten community colleges hired Dean McWilliams, as a governmental affairs consultant, to lead this legislative initiative.

State Rep. Sergio Munoz, D-Palmview, served on the Conference Committee and played a key role in negotiating the final passage of the bill. Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Eddie Lucio Jr., and Judith Zaffirini were firm supporters and helped negotiate the compromise through the Senate.

All Valley Representatives: Munoz, Guerra, Canales, Martinez, Longoria, Lucio (III), and Guillen were key in garnering statewide support for the bill.

STC was selected as one of three community colleges in Texas chosen by the 78th Legislature in 2003 to begin a pilot program, offering a maximum of five applied baccalaureate degrees. During the 82nd Legislature in 2011, the pilot status was removed, but maintained the maximum limit of five baccalaureate degres.

Currently, South Texas College, Brazosport College and Midland College are the only Texas community colleges accredited by SACS Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOS) and authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer Baccalaureate degrees.

“Our mission at the Nursing & Allied Health Division is to produce safe, caring, and competent healthcare practitioners meeting the healthcare needs of our growing diverse community,” said Valerio. “The approval of the SB 2118 will pave the way for our students and current RNs who are now working in the different health care settings to furthering their education.”