VC, UHV create dual-degree nursing program

Victoria College President Tom Butler, left, and University of Houston-Victoria Interim President Vic Morgan, right, met Tuesday morning at UHV to sign an agreement that would allow for students of both education institutions to complete a dual-degree program for nursing. They were joined by UHV students and faculty members of both programs.

As the new school year approaches, Crossroads students will have a new path to follow into the health care industry.

Tom Butler, Victoria College president, and Vic Morgan, University of Houston-Victoria interim president, met Tuesday morning to sign an agreement that would allow for students of both institutions to complete a dual-degree nursing program.

Beginning this 2014-15 term, VC students will now have an obvious path, said Butler, as they earn a nursing bachelor's degree in Victoria. Students already enrolled in the program can continue to earn a bachelor's degree at UHV.

"The No. 1 thing is that this benefits our students and gives them a clear and direct path in the program," he said Tuesday.

This agreement also sends a message to members of the community that the nursing program and access to training will continue in Victoria, Butler said.

Under terms of the agreement, students will be able to earn an associate degree of nursing from VC and then complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UHV in a total of four years.

Crossroads leaders have expressed concerns about the University of Houston's plan to take over UHV's nursing program in fall 2015. The deal announced Tuesday doesn't change that plan but does provide a route for VC nursing students to continue their education through UH rather than through UHV.

Once the nursing program transitions from UHV to UH in fall 2015, the students would be able to continue attending the Victoria campus and still earn a bachelor's degree, Morgan said. The only difference would be the UH label.

"This proposed dual degree takes full advantage of the best instructional capabilities of both VC and UHV," Butler said in a news release.

There will be no change to the way the classes are administered, he said, as most of the faculty already commute to the Victoria campus for class instruction.

"Nursing is not going away," Morgan said. "The opportunities will be here for students interested in the nursing program."

Felipe Solorio, 46, said he returned to school after an opportunity presented itself.

This summer, he enrolled in the medical assistance course to prepare for the other classes he would take in the nursing program.

"Instead of going out of town to continue my education, I can stay here," said the Placedo resident.

He said the agreement regarding tuition is also an added benefit to attending school in Victoria.

As long as the requirements are met to continue into the UHV portion of the program - passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam, graduating from VC with a 2.5 GPA or higher in natural, physical and behavior sciences courses and completing all prerequisite courses - that will lock the students' tuition rate in effect at the time of enrollment to the VC associate degree program. Students earning their bachelor's degree are required to continuously take a minimum of 12 credit hours each fall and spring semester.

Morgan believes the tuition agreement will protect students from rate increases at UHV and help families plan for continuing education.

"It makes it easier to go to school since I don't have to drive farther and pay for the commute," Solorio said.

Working in the health care field has always been an interest, he said, and he's glad to have the chance to pursue a degree in nursing through VC and UHV.

Bill Blanchard, CEO of the DeTar Healthcare System based in Victoria, said he was happy to hear the dual-degree program would continue to meet the needs of the health care industry.

"I am extremely pleased to see UHV and VC collaborate to create an opportunity for our local residents to have an accessible and affordable program in Victoria," he said.

As the need to fill health care positions continues to grow, there remains a need to further educate faculty members in other higher education programs. Blanchard also said he was happy to see the UH system continue to grow the nursing programs.

"I'm hopeful they will continue to provide master's and Ph.D. programs for faculty of the baccalaureate programs," he said.

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