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OC nursing program could offer four-year degree

If the Olympic College nursing program has its way, it will offer a four-year bachelors of science in nursing degree beginning fall 2007.

Officials have recently submitted a proposal to the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges for one of four possible new baccalaureate programs in the state. In 2005, the legislature authorized ESSB 1794, which seeks to expand baccalaureate programs at university branch campuses, and community and technical colleges.

Olympic College officials are scheduled to present their proposal March 5 and awards will be given in early April said Ellen Wirtz, associate dean of healthcare programs at OC.

The award would provide OC with first year planning money and state funding for each student in the program, she said.

They have submitted a curriculum and are working to get faculty in place. The nursing program is housed at OC’s Poulsbo Campus, which opened in 2004.

The four-year nursing degree is one of six proposals awaiting a decision. If approved, the program could accommodate up to 20 full-time students or the equivalent, Wirtz said. Currently the associate’s degree program has 115 students and typically graduates about 45 students each year she said.

Where the students go from there to get their bachelor’s is anyone’s guess.

“They don’t have a lot of options,” Wirtz said. Part of that comes from geographical factors, which makes commuting a difficulty.

Wirtz said the community has been supportive of OC’s choice to pursue a four-year degree program in nursing. Area hospitals and the City of Bremerton have submitted letters of support, she said.

City councilman Brad Gehring at a recent council meeting stressed the importance of looking at Olympic College’s potential to become a four-year college.

Mayor Cary Bozeman hopes this is the first step in having a four-year college on this side of Puget Sound.

“We’re not going to be the city we want to become without a four-year college. We see Olympic College as that college,” he said.

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