Galveston’s representatives in the Texas House and Senate want the city’s community college to be able to offer four-year nursing degrees.

State Rep. Wayne Faircloth and Sen. Larry Taylor filed identical bills Wednesday that would allow Galveston College to begin offering bachelor’s degrees in some programs.

Galveston College offers a two-year associate degree in nursing, said Myles Shelton, president of the college. But expanding the program to four years would help the school meet state mandates in increasing the number of people with degrees, and help fill local needs for health care workers, Shelton said.

“It is a paradigm shift,” Shelton said. “Community colleges are charged with meeting the needs of the workforce. That’s one of the purposes that are enforced by community colleges in the state of Texas.”

The bill would create a “direct pipeline” for nursing students in Galveston to medical jobs in the area, at an affordable price, Faircloth said.

“Developing local assets and equipping our people is a major priority,” Faircloth said. “To recruit and train local Galveston Island people will allow us to provide a predictable resource for the ongoing needs of UTMB and our local health care system.”

Texas is facing a shortage of nurses in the next 15 years. In October, the Texas Center for Nursing and Workforce Studies released a report that said Texas will face a shortage of all types of nurses by 2030.

The anticipated shortages included a projected deficit of nearly 60,000 registered nurses, according to the report.

The shortage was projected because of the expected increase in people being treated in nursing homes, residential care, and home health care settings, the center said.

Faircloth and Shelton said they don’t see an expanded nursing program at Galveston College as a competition for the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has its own four-year nursing program. Both said the medical branch was consulted while the bill was being developed.

The bill is expected to be forwarded to the higher education committees in both the House and the Senate. Nearly a dozen bills proposing similar baccalaureate programs at other community colleges in the state have been filed.

It would still be up to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to approve the expansion of the degree programs. Three colleges in Texas — Brazosport College, Midland College and South Texas College — offer baccalaureate degrees in various programs.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature approved a study to research whether the state should further expand its baccalaureate options, and particularly nursing degrees, at junior colleges. The report was published in 2015. It concluded that Texas was facing a nursing shortage, but did not specifically recommend expanding baccalaureate programs to junior colleges.

Faircloth’s bill is House Bill 2637. Taylor’s bill is Senate Bill 1170. The bill would also allow a similar four-year program to be established at San Jacinto College in Pasadena.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com. Follow him on Twitter, @johnwferguson.

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