Dec. 4, 2019
It makes perfect sense that community college baccalaureate (CCB) degrees would be magnets for nontraditional degree seekers. In my day-to-day advising for Green River College’s bachelor’s program in Software Development, I often hear the common refrain of “cost, convenience, and applicability” when talking to students about why they’re opting to earn their bachelor’s degree at a community college instead of a university.
Since program launch in 2014, our applied baccalaureate in Software Development has graduated seven cohorts of students and awarded 135 degrees. Fifty-two new students will enter the program in 2019-20, followed by another fifty-two students in 2020-21. Alongside 27 other community colleges in the state that offer CCB degrees, we’re helping Washington work towards its ambitious goal of increasing the overall number of baccalaureate degrees awarded to 42,400 per year.
Our students are economically diverse and older than the average transfer student. While their college experience may vary noticeably from a recent high school graduate living on-campus at a university, some aspects are the same. At Green River, for example, we’re working hard to help students access quality technical internships like many of their university peers have.
Two particular students in our program come to mind who exemplify successful adult learners benefiting from a CCB education, including valuable internship experiences: Jordan Smith and Katherine Truitt.
Smith is entering his senior year of study this fall and expects to complete his bachelor’s degree in Software Development in 2020. Before enrolling in our program, he worked jobs in customer service, aerospace manufacturing, and quality assurance, often holding management and supervisory roles. For Smith, cost of attendance and an applied focus were key factors in his decision to attend Green River.
“After high school I decided to take a one-year break from school before going back to college,” Smith says. “About six years later, after working warehouse and manufacturing jobs, I realized that it wasn’t something I wanted to do with my life, and I needed to find something new that I would actually enjoy. I had always been of fan of technology and I’d heard how great the work environment is in the tech industry, so I decided to start looking into learning how to code. After some online tutorials, I discovered I really liked it and wanted to start pursuing a career in development. After looking into [Green River’s] program and seeing the structure of it, and the cheaper price than university, I decided that’s where I wanted to go.”
Like Smith, Katherine Truitt is also entering her senior year and expects to earn her bachelor’s degree in Software Development in 2020. Before Green River, she served as a signals intelligence analyst with the United States Air Force, then worked as a pharmacy technician for almost nine years. For Truitt, the convenience of a short campus commute factored into her decision to quit her job and change careers.
“I worked as a pharmacy technician when I decided to go back to school,” Truitt says. “I was on the verge of job complacency and ready for a career change. I knew that I had to go back to school to make it happen. While I was trying to figure that out, my workplace was implementing new software and it did not run as expected. That experience led me to the technology field. I heard about Green River College’s software development program from a co-worker who was already enrolled in the program. I had no idea that bachelor’s degrees were being offered at that time. I made up my mind after consulting with my family and quit my job. The commute to campus is only fifteen minutes from my home, which is super convenient.”
For Smith and Truitt, going to school isn’t an academic exercise for its own sake. It’s about earning a degree, finding a job, and making an impact. They’re laser-focused on being successful in the classroom. They’re eager to take what they learn and apply it to real life. And they have a tenacious desire to grow, improve, and deliver value.
Like so many of our students, Smith and Truitt bring a customer-focused mindset and diverse life experiences to the table. This mindset and these experiences, in turn, give them a unique perspective on building software. Most recently, both students had the opportunity to put their perspectives and skills to good use this summer, Smith as a solution developer intern at Avanade, Truitt as a software engineering intern at REI.
I predict this tale of two interns signifies more of what is to come. The new traditional student is nontraditional. With applied baccalaureates on the rise, community colleges like Green River are expanding the tech talent pipeline and producing graduates just like Smith and Truitt—motivated, well rounded, and ready to contribute. For an industry that is desperate to diversify its workforce, tech and CCB degrees are a match made in heaven.
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