PJC plans to drop ‘Junior’ from name

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The New Year could bring a new look for PJC as it considers a possible name change along with offering baccalaureate degrees this fall.

“I have PJC penciled in a bill that is going through the Florida Senate,” Larry Bracken, executive director of government affairs, said. For PJC to offer baccalaureate degrees it has to be approved by the legislation, have a form of funding, and recommend a name change through a state bill.

The college had to act fast, so it organized a college naming committee whose first meeting was in October 2009. Its purpose was to review current legislation regarding college name changes and the requirements for offering baccalaureate degrees, to recommend a controlled community survey to seek input regarding the proposed choices, and to make recommendations to PJC President Dr. Ed Meadows, who will in turn make a recommendation to the PJC Board of Trustees.

Bracken stressed to the naming committee the importance of being included in the upcoming bill saying, “it could be years before another chance.” Section two of the bill states “this act shall take effect July 1, 2010.” But, in order to stay in the bill, PJC’s Board of Trustees has to approval a final name change later this January.

“PJC can’t be left behind,” Meadows said. Most community colleges in Florida have already, or are in the process of offering four-year degrees.

St. Petersburg Junior College was among the first in Florida to present baccalaureate degrees and changed its name to St. Petersburg College in 2001. PJC’s neighbor, Okaloosa-Walton College, changed their name to Northwest Florida State College in 2008.

Even though PJC hasn’t decided on a name, it partnered up with Seminole Community College in its bill, which has already changed its name to Seminole State College of Florida. Palm Beach Community College and Central Florida Community College are also expected to join the legislative move.

“Many students and parents do have misconceptions about PJC,” faculty member Dr. Guangping Zeng said, in a letter to previous PJC president Dr. Tom Delano in February 2006. Zeng expressed his worries about the word “junior” in PJC’s name. “A parent viewed PJC as only a junior college that prepares students for a real college, and a name change might be able to create a new, proper image.”

The Florida Department of Education provides a way for community colleges to include a baccalaureate degree option “for specific populations to access further education in a cost-effective manner to meet the needs of today’s workforce and to move readily compete in an increasingly globalized market.”

In fall 2010, PJC hopes to offer four-year Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) and Bachelor degree of Nursing (BSN) degrees.

“The tuition for a BAS or BSN degree offered by a community college is set by the legislature at 75 percent of the cost of university tuition,” Meadows said. “In order to try and meet the local workforce needs for nurses with a bachelor’s degree we will enroll between 30 and 40 students, and UWF has agreed to try and increase their enrollment from 40 per year to 60.”

There isn’t much competition when community colleges offer BAS degrees, because few universities carry it. Applied science degrees are more career or field-oriented and are designed to offer more hands-on training within the coursework.

PJC plans to offer a BAS in Administration and Supervision with four concentration areas: Organizational Administration; Public Safety/ Public Service; Healthcare Management; and Graphic Design.

Because AAS students are only required to take 15-21 general education credits depending on the degree, students will still need to fulfill the required 36 credit hours of general education credits for the BAS degree.

“The general education classes can be taken along with the BAS degree requirements,” Dr. Martin Gonzalez, vice president of instructional affairs, said.

By the time students earn a BAS degree at PJC, they will have earned 60 credits in an AAS degree, along with 60 additional credits for the BAS and 15 more credits to fulfill the general education requirements, for a total of 135 credits. A normal Bachelor of Arts or Science degree would require 120 credits, including electives or minors unrelated to their career fields.

“One of the main advantages to the BAS degree is that more classes are geared toward the students’ major or specific career field,” Gonzalez said.