TRAVERSE CITY — Nate Lammers will graduate today from Northwestern Michigan College with the state’s first community college bachelor’s degree.
Lammers, a St. Joseph native, earned his Bachelor of Science in Maritime Technology over the last three and a half years. Because NMC was only recently authorized to give out bachelor’s degrees, he had to take some of his classes, especially business classes, through Ferris State University, and accrued about $60,000 in student debt.
That all could change for future maritime students at NMC because the college is now accredited to give out bachelor’s degrees in the subject.
“It would mean I could focus more on the maritime classes and could graduate with less student debt,” Lammers said. “Being it’s a bachelor’s degree in maritime technology, it holds its weight a little bit more with specific shoreside jobs.”
Lammers, along with fellow student Matthew O’Donnell, will be the first to graduate with that degree from NMC tonight. Both men have several job offers.
NMC’s Great Lakes Maritime Academy is one of six maritime academies in the nation and has about 200 enrolled students.
NMC’s new accreditation will cut maritime students’ credit requirements from 146 to 120. Most of the additional classes were in business, Lammers said, and aren’t essential for those who aim to work on ships.
Students can take one of two tracks to be either a deck officer or an engineer.
“The most important thing about being able to award our own bachelor’s is how much money it will save the cadets,” said Rear Admiral Gerard Achenbach, the superintendent of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy. “That’s very fortunate because the reality is we lose cadets because they can’t afford to stay in the program.”
NMC is able to offer this degree after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder approved a house bill in December 2012 that allowed community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in maritime technology, culinary studies, cement technology and energy production. For the time being NMC only offers the bachelor’s degree in maritime technology.
“In terms of the state, I think it’s important because it shows community colleges have the quality required to achieve the same accreditation that the university system achieves,” NMC president Tim Nelson said.