BY ANNE STANTON
— TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College plans to offer its first bachelor’s degree come January, and it’s likely just the beginning for the community college.
That’s the hope, anyway, of NMC President Tim Nelson, who plans to take advantage of a 10-month-old law that allows the state’s 28 community colleges to award four-year degrees in maritime technology, energy production, culinary, and cement technology.
“In terms of NMC, we are only going to do things that make sense, if we have the expertise and assets to provide it,” said Nelson, who helped lobby for the new law.
NMC this week received approval to award a bachelor’s of science degree in maritime technology. Next up is energy production, perhaps 18 months to two years down the road, Nelson said.
The degree would combine aspects of its engineering technology department and the engineering side of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, he said.
Also under discussion is a culinary bachelor’s degree, which likely would follow two tracks, both tied to the region. One would be geared toward the rapidly emerging industries of viticulture, brewing and distilling. The other would link maritime studies with culinary logistics.
“We’ve been told by some industry members in the maritime industry that if we had culinary people with a logistics degree, they’d have quite a few jobs open. That it would be very valuable,” he said.
NMC is still in the early stages of developing a business model and fee structure for baccalaureates, Nelson said.
NMC is different than four-year institutions, such as Central Michigan University, because Grand Traverse County taxpayers provide financial support. Because of that, Grand Traverse County residents who attend NMC pay half as much tuition as out-of-county, Michigan students.
Cadets in the Great Lakes Maritime Academy already pay a much higher “differential” tuition of $372 per credit hour for maritime classes, regardless of where they live, because of the program’s high cost to run. That fee structure has not changed for bachelor degree candidates, said Andy Dolan, NMC spokesman.
Nelson said he’s frequently asked about four-year nursing degrees.
“The legislature took that off the table, but I am still under the belief that it will happen at some point. It will have to more driven by industry than it was,” he said. “We had good support from Munson and other northern hospitals, but the industry has to get behind it.”
Nelson said NMC is now looking at Ferris University adding a master’s degree tailored to maritime cadets.
“(Cadets) are already two-thirds of the way toward a master’s degree,” he said. “So we’d like to say, here’s the bachelor’s and here’s a pathway to a master’s degree that’s built especially to people who will be in the maritime industry.”