• September 11, 2014

It Pays to Be Nimble: New Majors at Community Colleges

Four-year institutions may be slow to develop new majors, but two-year colleges excel at creating new certificates and degrees, typically in response to local work-force needs. Here are some recent or forthcoming offerings at campuses across the country:

Lane Community College, Eugene, Ore.: With a state mental hospital to open nearby by 2013, Lane will offer a new program to train psychiatric technicians, preparing them to work with psychiatrists and nurses to carry out treatment plans, counsel clients on therapies, and monitor patients.

Mesa Community College, Mesa, Ariz.: Mesa's associate-degree program in emergency management prepares students to work for government agencies, schools, and local first responders to plan for and respond to emergencies such as hazardous-materials incidents and terrorist attacks. Such programs have proliferated at community colleges since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with the encouragement of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mitchell Technical Institute, Mitchell, S.D.: Enrollment in this Plains State college's new wind-turbine-technology program has exceeded expectations. Students earning a one-year diploma will be qualified for mechanical and maintenance jobs, while a two-year degree will prepare graduates to do more advanced troubleshooting work.

Howard Community College, Columbia, Md.: Howard offers what is believed to be the first associate degree in public health, designed to help students transfer into the health-administration-and-policy program at the University of Maryland's nearby Baltimore County campus. The new major's creators say Howard's proximity to the National Institutes of Health and other large medical centers makes the program a natural fit with the local labor market.

LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, N.Y.: This City University of New York college's new program in model design and prototyping builds on New York City's status as a hotbed of fashion and design. Students will learn how to design and produce 3-D models in the program, which responds to the needs of niche manufacturers in areas like clothing, furniture, and jewelry design, says Gail O. Mellow, LaGuardia's president. Students will also work with and learn from local designers through the college's design-business incubator.

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