The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission has reviewed and approved Mt. Hood Community College's application to offer a bachelor of applied science program in cybersecurity, bringing the school a monumental step closer to offering the four-year program.
This all comes after the 2019 passage of Senate Bill 3, allowing Oregon's community colleges to apply for approval to offer applied baccalaureate degrees.
MHCC is in the second phase of a two-part approval process for its applied bachelor's degree program in cybersecurity. After successfully demonstrating the need for the program in the community, the college must wait an additional 90 days before it can send a final program proposal to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
Even after getting approval for the program, MHCC vice president of instruction Alfred McQuarters said it might take several years before the program is officially available for student enrollment. McQuarters holds a doctorate degree in adult higher education and community college leadership.
"If everything goes smoothly, the earliest I can see (the baccalaureate program) happening is fall 2024," McQuarters said.
The college complete a great deal of research, discussion and planning in order to submit the statement of need.
"We had to engage our campus. We engaged faculty, we engaged the board and presented what this could potentially look like," McQuarters said. "We didn't identify what particular program (it would be) at that point, just really explore if this is an option that is viable for Mt. Hood Community College."
With positive feedback from the college, McQuarters drafted the statement of need.
"If you think of how many cyber attacks are happening at the business and federal level, it is this person who will make them more safe and secure," McQuarters said. "It is a very in demand (field) and cybersecurity is everywhere."
According to the Oregon Employment Department, between 2019 and 2029, there is a projected job growth rate in cybersecurity of 31.8 percent statewide, and 34.9 percent in the Portland tri-county area.
"Our next step would be preparing the full proposal, which is much more lengthy and much more detailed," McQuarters said.
While the college works on its final proposal, the 90-day waiting period is also a time for other people and organizations to discuss what the program might look like.
The college would still have a long list of tasks it needs to complete before it could accept its first student into the program, but McQuarters is excited at the prospect of offering this academic immersion in this growing field.
"(The program would) expand the ability to serve our community," McQuarters said. "It would change our district in so many ways in terms of providing students with new opportunities in cybersecurity."
The applied baccalaureate degree is unlike other four-year programs because it's designed to teach students skills they will need in the field right away.
"Instead of having to transfer to somewhere else to get a degree in computer science and understand just theory, the focus of (an applied bachelor's degree) is how you apply this information in the workforce," McQuarters said.
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