Miami Dade College adding more 4-year degrees
By Marilyn Bowden
Starting next August, Miami Dade College will be offering two new baccalaureate degrees recently approved by the Florida Department of Education.
The state approved a bachelor of science in biological science degree program over the summer, said Heather Belmont, dean of the college's School of Science. Students in the program will choose a focus on biotechnology, biopharmaceutical sciences or science education.
In October, the state approved a bachelor of science in early childhood education. This program will offer its graduates professional teacher certification in birth to age 4 and age 3 to grade three, with endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), reading and pre-kindergarten disabilities.
"We are working on these together as a team," Dr. Belmont said. "Both will initially start at North Campus."
In the months ahead, she said, there's a lot to be done to get the programs ready for the fall semester.
Both programs are undergoing an approval process by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, the accreditation body for the college.
"Getting accreditation influences financial aid," Dr. Belmont said. "SACS has traditionally been very supportive of our baccalaureate programs. Our outcomes have been extraordinarily positive."
In addition to financial aid paperwork, she said, "degree audits need to be loaded into our online system, and classrooms and resources have to be found. This involves so many different teams working together — advisements, financial aid, new student centers, administrative services and so on."
Getting state approval, Dr. Belmont said, involved documenting a need in the workforce for graduates of these programs.
"We had to look to our community to make sure there is a driving community need," she said. "We got strong support from our workforce — in fact, we got more than 40 letters of support from local employers."
With the Beacon Council's resurrection of its One Community One Goal initiative
targeting job areas this community will focus on in the
future, she said, "biotechnology, biopharmaceutical sciences and science education are popping right back up on the radar."
Dr. Belmont said a new report from the state Board of Education found that community college graduates are out-earning graduates of both state and private universities in Florida — and employment rates are also higher.
Miami Dade College began offering four-year degree programs in 2003, the same year it changed its name from Miami-Dade Community College. The new baccalaureate programs will bring the total offered by the college to nine.
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