The Dallas County Community College District‘s effort to unify its colleges into a single institution comes with a new name: Dallas College.
The district’s plan was approved on Monday by its accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The new Dallas College will encompass the district’s Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake and Richland colleges, which will now be campuses instead of colleges.
In addition to consolidating its colleges to better serve students, the approved plan also grants the district a “level change,” which allows what is now Dallas College to offer a bachelor of applied science in early childhood education and teaching, the first four-year degree offered by the institution.
“The pivotal moment we’ve been waiting for these last three months has arrived with an affirmative decision on our application by SACSCOC,” said Chancellor Joe May. “While there is still much work to be done, this marks a major step in furthering our mission of transforming lives and communities through higher education.”
A needed change
Many of the barriers to graduation students faced were the result of a structure that allowed for separate processes and administrative systems at each of the seven colleges. While this structure served the district well for decades, it was beginning to delay students in completing their degrees, especially students enrolled at more than one of the district’s colleges.
Submitted March 15, the application had been under review with no guaranteed outcome. The district’s “complete consolidation prospectus,” which outlined goals such as organizing around “Schools of” (e.g., a School of Law and Public Service) that span multiple campuses, streamlining student services to make them available to all students regardless of campus location, and making organizational changes to academic leadership, successfully made the case for how the district could better meet its student-centric obligations as one college.
“A single accreditation will not only bring new challenges and create exciting new roles but will help us lay the groundwork for education in Dallas County for the next 50 years,” May said. “And more immediately, as Dallas College, we can begin realigning our structure in the days and weeks ahead by filling key leadership roles that will guide the way we educate our students as one college.”
Several factors led the district to begin re-organizing around a unified structure last year. One that caught the attention of district leaders was the discovery that more than 1,300 students were unable to receive degrees because they had not acquired enough credits at one college — but had credits from several DCCCD colleges that could not effectively be combined for a degree. With the seven DCCCD colleges operating as separate institutions, current accreditation rules required a student to earn at least 25 percent of their credits from one institution.
With Dallas College operating as an approved single entity, students will graduate without having to worry how accumulating credits at several campuses might affect their degrees.
Another key factor is that Dallas College in the fall will launch its School of Education and the Early Childhood Institute, offering a four-year baccalaureate program in early childhood education and teaching. The new bachelor’s degree will be the first four-year degree offered by the district, and it represents the evolution of a district that once only offered associate degrees.
Pending a SACSCOC site visit in the fall to verify that the district is operating in a way that is consistent with its approved application, Dallas College will also become the largest college in the state, as measured by students served and number of employees, eclipsing Lone Star College in the Houston area.
“Students will now have a more consistent and seamless experience across campuses, and more of them will graduate on time,” said Diana Flores, chair of the DCCCD board of trustees, which authorized the single accreditation last August. “We’re excited that SACSCOC has put its stamp of approval on the process, and our vision, as we move forward.”
Other community colleges across the country also have changed their names over the years, often to reflect that they now offer certain bachelor’s degrees. Florida’s Miami Dade College, one of the largest higher education institutions in the country, was among the first to drop “community” from its name in 2003 when it added select four-year degrees.