HCC's new status as a Level 2 Institution has important implications for Houston

Jun 26, 2024

When the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) approved two new baccalaureate degree programs at Houston Community College (HCC), it enlarged the pipeline to jobs for thousands in the college’s service area.

SACSCOC is the accrediting agency for most public colleges and universities in Texas. At its June 13 meeting, SACSCOC approved HCC’s baccalaureate degrees in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics and Healthcare Management and paved the way for the college to offer other four-year degrees.

“We welcome the news that HCC is now a Level 2 institution,” said HCC Chancellor Margaret Ford Fisher, Ed.D. “For 53 years, HCC has offered associate degrees and certificates in hundreds of programs which benefit the region’s workforce. Now, as a Level 2 institution, HCC will offer baccalaureate degrees which train workers for positions in important career fields, expanding job opportunities for prospective employees throughout the community.

HCC’s first two baccalaureate programs—Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Healthcare Management—will effectively help address employment shortages in the Houston region and throughout the broader community.

The Bachelor of Technology in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics originated in response to the expansion of the AI job market and its impact on the larger economy. Already, AI is being integrated into smart phones, hospitals, factories, agriculture, automobiles, gaming, social media, finance/banking, astronomy, data security, travel and transportation and more.

HCC has been a leader in AI education since it launched its first associate degree in AI Technology in 2020. Nationally, the program receives support from industry leaders like Intel, Amazon Web Services, Nvidia Corporation, and Microsoft, highlighting the need for a talent pipeline in the field.

The program has also received strong support from Wolfram Research, Inc., Machine Learning University, Grimm Co., ICS Village, Inc., IBM and others.

According to Dr. Samir Saber, dean of HCC’s Digital and Information Technology Center of Excellence, AI is a high-growth job field with current vacancies and sustained growth into the future.

“Over the next five years, it is estimated that 2,586 new positions will emerge in the Houston area alone,” Dr. Saber said. “In the Houston region, the Texas Medical Center, NASA, the energy and manufacturing industries, as well as transportation, business, and finance sectors will be in great need of qualified and knowledgeable workers in AI if they are to remain competitive in a world driven by AI tools,” he said.

The annual median salary for trained AI professionals is $97,200, according to Career Coach.

Likewise, the college’s new Bachelor of Applied Science in Healthcare Management will enhance any Associate of Applied Science health science degree by preparing students for either career advancement or entry-level healthcare managerial positions.

The degree program enables working allied health professionals to advance their careers by focusing on leadership skills, knowledge, and credentials in the healthcare management field.

Career Coach reports 1,752 job openings in the Houston area with a median salary of $64,200.

“These positions are important for the efficient operation of medical practices, hospitals, and health clinics,” said Dr. Lutricia Harrison, HCC Coleman College interim president. “HCC is pleased to train individuals who will play important roles in healthcare across the region.”

Healthcare Management is offered at HCC’s Coleman College for the Health Sciences located in the world-renowned Texas Medical Center.

“These programs make sense for Houston,” Dr. Ford Fisher said.

“They will provide trained professionals who will help address the shortage of workers in the region. These HCC programs have an established history and allow students who begin with an associate degree to complete a four-year degree on the campus where they began.”

Other programs that “make sense for Houston” will follow, the chancellor said.

“As we work closely with our business and industry partners and survey the needs of our students, the community can count on HCC to deliver new and cutting-edge programs that provide the training for jobs that will move Houston forward in days and years to come.”

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