Transitioning from an Associate Degree Program to a Baccalaureate Degree Program

Transitioning from an Associate to Baccalaureate Program

AARC supports the movement from associate degree prepared respiratory therapists to baccalaureate degree and masters degree prepared respiratory therapists. The profession has experienced a growth in scope, complexity of clinical skills, and diversity of care sites. The need for critical thinking and non-technical skills has also grown, resulting in a demand for RTs who are not only technically competent but also demonstrate skill in communication, deductive reasoning, management, health policy, and education. Advancing the degree of the RT provides a foundation for these skills and also provides career opportunities for the RT that might not otherwise exist.

Some states allow the community college system, with varying rules and regulations, to award baccalaureate degrees. These states include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia. In these states, educational programs that currently offer an associate degree may consider transitioning the program’s curriculum to offer a baccalaureate degree.

Transitioning from one level of degree to another may require multiple levels of application and approval, including those from the college administration, the state board of education, and the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. In addition, the college will likely need to gain support from the respiratory care community for the transition: current students, graduates, program advisory committee, respiratory care employers, and the dean of the academic unit.

Below are resources provided by AARC to assist the program to support the transition of an academic program from an associate degree to a baccalaureate degree. If you have a resource that you feel is helpful to others and you wish to submit that resource for inclusion, please email Shawna Strickland for more details.

AARC interviewed program directors who guided their programs through the Associate to Baccalaureate degree transition process. The program directors respond to the interview questions and offer advice in the audio files below.

Question: What was the most challenging aspect of transitioning from an Associate to a Baccalaureate degree?

Question: How did you gain the support of your administration for transitioning the program from an Associate to a Baccalaureate degree?

  • Fred Goglia, Program Director at Seattle Central College in Seattle, WA
  • Debra Kasel, Program Director at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY
    “This was a difficult step to overcome. We had support from our Advisory Board for several years before we finally received support from administration. We really had to continuously provide feedback for the need and want of a BS program from the respiratory care community.”

Question: How did you approach your curriculum development for the new Baccalaureate degree?

  • Fred Goglia, Program Director at Seattle Central College in Seattle, WA
  • Debra Kasel, Program Director at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY
    “We used feedback from our Advisory Board and graduates regarding content/skills gaps. We also looked at the 2015 and Beyond competencies for graduates. Then there was dialogue on how to arrange the content.”

Question: What would you do differently if you had to do it over again, knowing what you know now?

  • Fred Goglia, Program Director at Seattle Central College in Seattle, WA
  • Debra Kasel, Program Director at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY
    “Tough to say at this point since one group is not through yet. However, we are seeing a definite change in our program demographics (younger students, first career) so this impacts our recruitment strategies. The program has pre-requisites and making sure the younger students get on board early and stay on track requires our attention.  We have fewer second career students, mostly due to the longer program completion time.  Another challenge has been internally with the increased demand for outside the department/college support courses. Access to these courses is limited and students sometimes find it difficult to find open seats in the courses. We are working with these departments to insure more access, but sometimes the resources are limited.”

Question: What fiscal considerations were involved?

  • Fred Goglia, Program Director at Seattle Central College in Seattle, WA
  • Debra Kasel, Program Director at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY
    “Yes, we had to demonstrate that we would be fiscally responsible. Fiscal considerations will likely be an issue for the next several years as the university continues to face budgetary issues.”

Question: What type of accreditation issues did you encounter?

  • Fred Goglia, Program Director at Seattle Central College in Seattle, WA
  • Debra Kasel, Program Director at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, KY
    “We did not encounter issues related to accreditation. Program faculty are now require a bit more justification for institutional (SACS) accreditation. The biggest challenge is due to the fact that terminal degrees are often in education, or liberal studies and not respiratory care.”