BSC to become North Dakota’s first polytechnic institution
North Dakota’s State Board of Higher Education (SBHE) has given Bismarck State College (BSC) permission to pursue a new mission as a polytechnic institution that offers bachelor of applied science (BAS) degrees while maintaining the college's current certificate, diploma, and associate degree offerings.
As a four-year technical degree, a BAS is a building block to two-year technical degrees allowing graduates to advance in technical careers. BSC already coordinates with Dickinson State University, Minot State University and Valley City State University to offer a number of bachelor of arts and science degrees on the BSC campus. As a polytechnic institution, BSC will be able to offer additional highly affordable advanced degrees to students on campus and online, according to BSC President Dr. Larry C. Skogen.
And affordability is one of the community college fundamentals that BSC will continue to be grounded in.
“This change means we can be more nimble in support of business and industry, but we will always maintain the spirit of a community college – a spirit of accessibility and affordability that has benefitted students since 1939,” he says.
Skogen and his leadership team have explored the potential of becoming a polytechnic institution over the past few years as industry requests for advanced training have increased. BSC currently has approval from the SBHE to offer three BAS degrees -- in Energy Management, Cybersecurity and Geomatics.
“It’s the support of industry that has allowed us to stand up the BAS degrees currently in play,” Skogen notes. “We are grateful to them, and expect that need will remain even after our mission changes.”
BSC began offering a BAS in Energy Management in 2007. To date, 474 students have graduated from the program. A BAS in Cybersecurity and Information Technology will launch in the fall of 2019 (pending Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approval) thanks to $1.85 million in support from industry. The third BAS, in Geomatics has not moved forward due to a lack of funding.
Skogen notes that industry leaders have asked BSC to look into a BAS in Instrumentation & Control, and North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott has directed BSC to develop BAS in Manufacturing over the next few years. Should BSC become a polytechnic institution, the process for offering BAS degrees will be significantly streamlined.
BSC Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Dan Leingang, will lead the next steps for the college – applying to HLC for accreditation as a polytechnic institution. Leingang expects that application and review process to take approximately one year.
“Becoming a polytechnic institution strengthens North Dakota by creating educational opportunities that didn’t previously exist,” Leingang says. “We continue to be a great place to start and transfer on or earn a two-year degree. By adding highly advanced technical degrees, our students can grow in the technical roles booming across the state. This is a truly unique niche in higher ed.”