Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education (CBHE) approved Ozarks Technical Community College and St. Louis Community College to offer bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy. This marks the first time any community college in Missouri has been approved to offer bachelor’s degrees in any subject. The approval by CBHE is the first step in a multi-tiered approval process. The two respiratory therapy programs must now seek approval from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
OTC and STLCC sought the approval to offer bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy because both schools hope to expand their programs in the future, and CoARC now requires that any new respiratory therapy programs offer bachelor’s degrees. The CBHE approval for the programs was made possible by a 2018 state law that allows community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees in situations “…where the level of education required in a field for accreditation or licensure increases to the baccalaureate level…” The CBHE approval marks the first time that law has been triggered.
The leaders of the two community colleges, Hal Higdon, Ph.D., OTC chancellor, and Jeff L. Pittman, Ph.D., chancellor, STLCC, offered a joint statement.
“During the global pandemic, we have seen the vital role respiratory therapists have in treating patients who are significantly impacted by the coronavirus. The ability to offer bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy will allow our institutions to continue to meet the demand for these life-saving medical professionals.”
According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), the demand for respiratory therapists will grow by nearly 28% by the year 2026. The average salary of a respiratory therapist in the state is almost $56,000.
OTC and STLCC currently offer an associate of applied science in respiratory therapy. Ozarks Technical Community College offers the program at its Springfield location and has plans to expand to its Waynesville location in the future. STLCC offers respiratory care at its Forest Park campus and will expand to STLCC-Florissant Valley in the coming years.
OTC plans to admit the first cohort of bachelor’s degree-seeking students in fall 2022 at Springfield and Waynesville. Students will have the opportunity to pursue either the associate or bachelor’s degree in Springfield, but only the bachelor’s degree in Waynesville.
STLCC plans to welcome students in fall 2022 to pursue an associate of applied science or a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care at the Center for Nursing and Health Sciences at STLCC-Forest Park or the STLCC-Florissant Valley campus.