Education

Houston Community College reveals first two bachelor’s degree programs

Students can obtain a four-year degree in Applied Technology in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Applied Science in Healthcare Management.

HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado addressed a crowd at the George R. Brown Convention Center on the state of the college.
Laura Isensee
HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado addressed a crowd at the George R. Brown Convention Center on the state of the college.

Houston Community College will offer two new bachelor's degree programs starting in fall 2023. Students can obtain a four-year degree in Applied Technology in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Applied Science in Healthcare Management.

"We’re just excited about being able to offer these two degrees because we know that we’re giving students the opportunity to start and complete their four-year education in one campus or one college," said Vice Chancellor of Instructional Services and Chief Academic Officer Norma Perez.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 2118 in 2017, which allowed the Texas Higher Education Coordinating board to authorize public junior colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in applied science, applied technology, and nursing. In 2019, House Bill 3348 was signed, which expanded the number of degrees junior colleges can offer to five.

HCC was approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as a Level 2 Baccalaureate granting institution in December.

HCC's Chancellor Cesar Maldonado said in a statement: "We are continually exploring ways to provide relevant programs and instruction that serve the needs of students and employers in our service area," he said. "With these two inaugural bachelor's degree programs, we give students an opportunity to start and complete their four-year education on the same HCC campus."

Perez said when House Bill 3348 was signed, she knew the college needed to expand its academic portfolio.

"When that change was made up to five, we believed that there was a need for us to begin to meet the demand and to allow our students an opportunity to be able to obtain advanced degrees," she said. "So we decided to go ahead and start the process of making that change."

According to Perez, there's a high demand in the workforce for both degrees in the Houston area. HCC was actually the first college in Texas to offer an associates degree in artificial intelligence. Students that graduate with a bachelor's degree in AI can enter the profession, which has about 3,500 openings right now with a median annual salary of about $97,000.

"We all know that artificial intelligence is really up and coming," said Perez. "And we’re going to be seeing more and more of that and so we just wanted to make sure that we were prepared to meet the needs of our workforce in that area."

HCC currently has a number of health science programs — respiratory therapy, radiography, sonography and others. A graduate of the Healthcare Management degree has access to about 1,700 annual openings and a starting median annual salary of about $64,000, according to the school. Perez said the healthcare management degree expands students’ knowledge to enter into supervisory positions.

"Healthcare is one of the growing occupations in our city and of course, we have the largest medical center," she said. "And so the degree is going to allow these individuals to advance in those careers by giving them again the leadership skills and knowledge that they’ll need in healthcare management."

Perez said the school still wants to keep the structure of the institution even with the expanded degree options.

"The one thing we want to keep in mind is that we want to keep the costs low for students," she said. "As you know, community colleges are basically known for having low costs, as well as small classrooms – so we hope to maintain that same kind of concept as we as we roll out our baccalaureate degrees."

HCC currently has an "open door" admissions policy and its student population primarily consists of minority students. Both degrees are offered to students that attend HCC – as well as students from other community colleges or universities whose first two years meet the background requirements of the degrees.

HCC is still working to determine admission requirements and tuition for the new bachelor's degree programs.