CORSICANA

Two years ago, Navarro College sought approval from the 85th Texas Legislature to offer baccalaureate degrees in nursing. The two-year institution, unfortunately, did not make the cut and is eager to get the ball rolling in the 86th Legislature.

Dr. Kevin Fegan, who has served as president of Navarro College since midyear 2018, detailed what occurred in the previous legislation and the plan for approval this year.

“We are looking at it from a workforce and technical perspective, which has always been the domain for community colleges,” Fegan said. “They are in their communities to provide those workforce and career needs that their communities have.”

Two years ago, Senate Bill 2118 passed that allowed two-year institutions with legislative approval to work with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and specialty accreditations to provide bachelor degrees.

Five community college districts were granted a pilot status following the 85th Legislature, which included Dallas Community College, Austin Community College, San Jacinto Community College, Grayson and Tyler Community Colleges. The majority of the schools focused the four-year degrees in nursing or health sciences.

“We met all the variables except one,” Fegan explained. “The element that was placed in there was that the taxing district of the community college had to have a taxable base of at least $6 billion.”

He said about half of the community colleges in Texas at there or above and was unsure where the $6 billion figure came from.

Brittany Gaddy, deputy chief of staff for State Rep. John Wray, clarified "The parties involved in the writing of SB 2118 last session actually settled on the $6 billion number after considering numbers as high as $12 billion."

Navarro serves five counties, and only one of the five is a taxing district — Navarro County. “So our other four counties, take Ellis County, for example, no taxes are paid to Navarro College,” Fegan clarified. “So not one resident in Ellis County pays any taxes to Navarro.”

When all five counties are combined, the taxable evaluation is $24 billion; meanwhile, Navarro County is only $3.5 billion.

During the 86th Legislature, local politicians are working to ensure Navarro College can be eligible to offer baccalaureates.

Fegan explained either the $6 billion figure gets reduced or legislation is written to include taxing district and service area, or specifically reference Navarro College geographically without naming the institution.

Fegan explained in 2017, Wray and former state representative Byron Cook attempted to add an amendment to qualify Navarro, which specifically detailed the geographic location of Navarro Colleges. That amendment was submitted and withdrawn on the same day.

Gaddy informed the Daily Light that after Wray added the amendment, he received word from the Senate author of SB 2118 that indicated that he did not agree with the change, and would possibly kill the bill if the amendment remained.

"Wray removed the amendment to keep the bill alive," Gaddy said.

Since Navarro campuses consist of five different locations, Fegan has worked with several politicians with Wray as the lead. Conversations about the bill also occurred with Senator Brian Birdwell, Rep. Cody Harris, who took Cook’s place, Rep. Kyle Kacal and Rep. Trent Asberry.

A VALID ARGUMENT

Fegan stressed the necessity of this being approved in the current legislature since it would take about another four to five years to complete the process. And, at any time any of the boards could not approve it.

Fegan noted that even though nursing programs across the state are full, a nursing shortage in Texas is a reality.

Navarro College Dean of Health Professions Guy Featherston backed up this point.

Featherston provided a study by the Department State Health Services stated the Bureau of Labor Statistic said, “The demand for nurses is expected to grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2023 … The study found that by 2030, the US demand for nurses will increase by over 28 percent from 2.8 million to 3.6 million.”

The study noted that most states will be able to keep up with the demand, but even though Texas will add 88,000 nurses over that period, it will not keep up with the demand.

Dr. Cindy Zolnierek, executive director of the Texas Nurses Association, stated in the report, “We’re getting a ‘double whammy.’ We’re getting an increased demand … at the same time, a good portion of the nursing population is retiring.

The report also noted that despite the apparent growing demand for nurses, local Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs have not expanded in recent years.

The report noted, St. David’s School of Nursing at Texas State University in Round Rock offered admission to 126 students in 2017. That is only one more than it offered admission to in 2012. From 2012-17 Round Rock-based South University offered admission to 25 students, five fewer seats than the school offered in its BSN program in 2014-15.

Gaddy shared this is a significant priority for Wray as he has heard from hospitals in the district who need BSN degree-holders in their facilities, nursing students who would like to continue their education, and from Navarro College, who insists that they can handle the need and demand.

"I'm proud to work daily on legislation that improves the lives of all Texans," Wray said. "It is particularly special, however, when the constituents of District 10 come to me with an issue that directly affects our area, and we are able to deliver. It really reinforces the fact that I have been sent here to serve my community. My staff and I will work diligently to get this done for the medical community, the nursing students, and the people of District 10."

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450