Merced College will look to offer a four-year degree program as soon as next year, according to the college president, who addressed a crowd Friday at the school.
President Ron Taylor spoke to scores of students, faculty, elected officials and others during the third annual State of the College Address, which highlighted the school and the future plans of administrators.
“The nature of higher education and indeed the world has been changing dramatically,” he said. “This has had large implications for what we do at Merced College.”
Taylor said the college has moved more of its focus toward educating students looking for a two-year degree or to move on to a university. That means there is less attention on those looking for part-time cultural enrichment or continuing education.
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This week, he said, the college’s Allied Health Department submitted an application to offer a pilot four-year degree on campus for diagnostic sonography, an area of study related to ultrasounds. “If this happens for us, our first bachelor’s degree class would start in fall of 2016,” he said.
Taylor said college staff also continues to look at ways to grow enrollment, which leveled off last year. College staff is looking at outreach to high schools, offering online classes and opening courses for prisoners to drive up enrollment.
The college has seen a number of new hires since last year, and thus has six more faculty. It has recovered from the sanctions placed on it in 2012, Taylor said, which resulted in about two years of reporting to the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The commission reaffirmed the college’s full accreditation status without sanction last year.
The college returned its midterm report about this time last year, Taylor said. “Frankly, a few of us were anxious that we might be put back on accreditation sanction,” he said. “That did not happen thanks to the hard work of many.”
Some of the recommendations from the commission called for a clearer delegation of authority or further training for the school’s board of trustees. Some of the report’s findings were related to the assessments and expectations professors have for their students.
Taylor said implementing the necessary changes will be an ongoing process for years to come.
Over the last year, the college has also cut its $1 million budget gap in half, he said, and expects to close the gap in the next year.
Taylor gave the address near the Bill and Dorothy Bizzini Interdisciplinary Academic Center, the school’s newest building, and touted the generosity of people in the community. “The building behind me is a testament to the largesse of our community and to the purposes of the institution,” he said.
The 22,986-square-foot building was added to campus in 2006, the first new instructional space at Merced College since the 1980s. The $10.2 million building was funded through a state bond.
The complex is used by a number of areas of study and is meant to increase the collaboration between faculty. It features labs for computers, writing, archeology and anthropology.
During the gathering at the college, administrators also gave the President’s Medallion to Bill and Dorothy Bizzini, who have contributed $1 million to Merced College and have made other charitable contributions to local and international organizations.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.