Community colleges in Michigan would be able to expand the programs in which they can offer four-year degrees, including nursing, if a bill that has been introduced by State Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is passed.

House Bill 4148 allows colleges to offer bachelor degrees in nursing, wastewater treatment technology, allied health, ski area management, information technology and manufacturing technology.

The key to the legislation is nursing, said Mike Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association. Hansen said that a bill passed last year allowed community colleges to offer degrees in four programs, but nursing was dropped. Hansen said all 28 community colleges offer nursing associate degrees nursing programs.

Shirkey said in a press release that allowing community colleges to offer more four-year degrees will lead to higher enrollment and better job opportunities.

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"This legislation offers a great opportunity for our state to address important issues, such as the need to provide a fuller spectrum of educational degrees closer to home, the nursing shortage that has become problematic to our health care system, or the need to provide students with more vocational and manufacturing opportunities," Rep. Shirkey said in the release. "I view this legislation as critically important and as one of my top priorities."

However, Eastern Michigan University officials say it partners with community colleges to offer four-year degrees in nursing and thinks those arrangements are better than community colleges offering the bachelor's degrees on their own.

"EMU is a statewide leader in community college partnerships," said EMU Spokesman Geoff Larcom. "We have over 100 community college articulation agreements, we offer classes on site at many community colleges, and we work hand-in-hand with their students to ensure affordable and seamless access to higher education. These partnerships work and should be enhanced. The Legislature last year abandoned a proposal to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in nursing. We believe the legislature made the right decision and the issue is resolved. We look forward to continuing and expanding our community college partnerships."

The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.

(Editor's note: Every Saturday, Michigan Capitol Confidential brings you a story about a bill being discussed in committee or presented in the Legislature for a vote. For more information, go to www.MichiganVotes.org.)

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