The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy’s Harry Painter reports here on a proposal by four community college presidents — including Wake Technical Community College President Stephen Scott — to obtain approval to offer bachelor’s degrees. The idea was proposed at a meeting of a state legislative committee last week.

The degrees proposed were “applied baccalaureate degrees,” which the presidents distinguished from traditional baccalaureate degrees in that they are based on employers’ needs. They include degrees in paralegal studies, fire science, and digital media, among others.

The presentation, available on the committee’s website, said that other states have such programs, and claimed that they would increase college “affordability and accessibility” while saving taxpayers money. In particular, the presentation argued that North Carolina has a compelling need for a bachelor of science degree in nursing. It also made reference to the “closing the skills gap” initiative, which Governor Pat McCrory has championed to connect graduates with employers. The group also claimed the plan would save students approximately $3,000 (presumably per year) and save the state approximately $20,000 per student.

The proposal rocked the community college establishment. On Friday, two days after the legislative committee meeting, the North Carolina Association of Community College Presidents expressed disapproval at the monthly state board meeting. Linwood Powell, chair of the board, condemned the decision to go before the committee because the presidents had short-circuited the usual process for proposing changes. “It is not about what is right or wrong in offering a four-year degree—it is all about the process.”

Powell called for an apology from the four presidents, joking that if one is not forthcoming, the presidents could use benefit from an “applied bachelor’s degree in leadership and human relations” themselves. Powell said, “Hopefully, all of this came about because of a mistake in judgment.”