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By Vicky Dorvee

FRCC locates their first bachelor’s degree


April 12, 2019

Vicky Dorvee

Front Range Community College will be offering a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Geospatial Science this fall. It will be the first four-year degree program for the school and a B.A.S. in Nursing is expected to begin in 2020.

From providing the quickest driving route, to identifying where measles outbreaks are likely to occur, software applications tracking data across geography have become elemental to our daily lives. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning Systems (like the GPS in smartphones,) and other data collecting/analyzing tools help to forecast floods, analyze accident hotspots, and even study soil patterns.

Front Range Community College’s (FRCC) Geospatial Program Lead, Jennifer Muha said, “Geospatial sciences is the blanket term that refers to any science that utilizes location in addition to data. ‘Big Data’ is a buzz term that’s going around right now and we deal with Big Data, but we add that extra component of where and how those things change over time.”

FRCC’s geospatial two-year program at the Longmont campus has been sending students on to careers for 15 years. But local companies clamoring for even more hires with greater expertise has led the college to boost their existing associate’s degree by adding the school’s first four-year degree –a Bachelors of Applied Science in Geospatial Sciences.

It’s not typical for a community college to offer classes beyond associate degrees, but FRCC has an advisory council that steers the college to offer relevant courses and programs to prepare students for local workforce needs.

“The college had conversations beginning a few years ago with employers who came to FRCC who asked us to develop a higher level program because they had jobs,” Peterson said. “GIS, GPS, and cartography and satellite remote skills…those kinds of things that you learn in this program, can be used in 400 different occupations from environmental science to engineering to fire protection, basically anything where you’re using data and maps.”

A general search of one geospatial science position, a GIS analyst, in Colorado on Indeed.com and Monster.com, two popular employment websites, unfurls a list of over 400 jobs, with an average salary of close to $60,000.

The entire Front Range has been referred to as the “geospatial alley” according to Muha, and more companies are moving here, making it a burgeoning area for the field. Esri out of Broomfield and DigitalGlobe in Westminster are two employers sending their employees to FRCC for geospatial courses and looking to hire graduates from that program.

Muha said, “Frontier Precision is a big supporter of our program and they not only hire our graduates as interns, but they also send their people to us to gain skills. So there are a lot of companies who will gladly hire our students because they already know there will be a good caliber of work coming out of our students.”

Muha said, “Metro State, UNC, and CU Boulder all offer similar degrees, however, they trend towards geography degrees with a GIS emphasis. Ours, along with affordability, is a true Geospatial Science degree and can claim the highest number of GIS-specific credits with 22 courses and 75 credits out of the 121 credits for a Bachelor’s of Applied Science. We are also different in that our students are looking to move into positions which focus heavily on geospatial sciences.”

The B.A.S. in Geospatial Sciences program begins this fall. FRCC is predicting 10 to 20 graduating students per year from the new program. Reaching that number may take three to five years however, Muha said, because getting the word out and garnering interest may take a while. But many students who have earned GIS certificates or a Geospatial Science Associate of Applied Science degree are excited to take some of the specialized higher level courses being offered.

Muha said students are “workplace ready”, because they’re learning on the same software programs used by hiring companies. Muha is presently the only full-time FRCC employee in the department, but they will be hiring one more full-time staff member. Other instructors are professionals doing what they are teaching, such as program and database management and web applications.

Thanks to a sense of urgency in the healthcare industry, FRCC is also working toward offering a second bachelor’s degree program. The college is working through the approval process for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and expects to have the program ready to go by 2020.

Jessica Peterson, Public Relations Director for FRCC, said, “One of our very strong, respected, and established programs for years has been the nursing program. But the bachelor’s degree has become more desirable to employers and Colorado actually has a shortage annually of approximately 500 nurses.”

FRCC’s 194 degree and certificate programs (offered across its three campuses) are designed to set students up to continue their education at four year schools, to give them brand new skills to apply immediately, or to enhance their existing knowledge . Seventy-two of their programs are academic programs leading to associate degrees and 120 are certificate programs in career or technical areas. FRCC also hosts particular classes, Spanish or leadership programs for instance, for employers.

“It’s a pretty incredible environment,” Peterson said of FRCC. “What I notice right away is that there’s a real sense of altruism here. The faculty and staff know that community colleges serve a really important need for people who want to learn more, get better jobs, and improve their situation in life,” Peterson said.

FRCC utilizes “guided pathways,” a nationally recognized community college concept which connects students to a community of resources and aids them in decision-making throughout their educational journey. This momentum has resulted in much higher program completion rates for community college students, according to Peterson.

New student orientations include talking about the college’s six career and academic communities: business and information technology, health professions, liberal arts and communications, education and social service, mathematics and science, or manufacturing, automotive, construction, and design technology, and which one of those best fits each students’ interests and goals.

“For most people, it’s also a very affordable option, and you get a quality education,” Peterson said.

Peterson estimated that completing the first two years of a four-year degree at FRCC will save students approximately $11,000 in tuition. There’s also a higher teacher-to-student ratio giving faculty members more time with their students, and the college’s deep community connections mean that local businesses offer internships and apprenticeships to FRCC students.

To learn more about the Geospatial program at FRCC, email Jennifer.Muha@FrontRange.edu or go to http://www.FRCC.edu, and in the search bar, type in GIS. Muha encourages those who are interested to sit in on any class to get a feel for the program.


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