Northwestern Michigan College, the state's first community college, is set to become the first community college in Michigan to offer its own fully accredited bachelor's degree.
The college has received official notice that the Higher Learning Commission's Institutional Actions Council has approved NMC's request to offer a bachelor of science in maritime technology.
"This accreditation is important for a number of reasons to a number of our stakeholders," said NMC President Timothy J. Nelson. "For our students in the Northwestern Michigan College Great Lakes Maritime Academy it means they can graduate earlier, join the workforce earlier and accumulate a more traditional number of credit hours in pursuit of their bachelor's degree. Our estimate is that this degree path will save cadets in the neighborhood of $10,000 and allow some to go to work a semester earlier. Given current starting rates for our maritime graduates that could mean as much as $30,000 in extra earnings.
"This degree is also important to our college and to the state of Michigan. As the first community college in the state to achieve accreditation to offer a baccalaureate degree, our success in delivering this program can, and should, serve as an example that there is sound logic in allowing community colleges to provide baccalaureate credentials in fields that leverage their individual expertise and assets."
Jerry Achenbach, Superintendent of NMC's Great Lakes Maritime Academy said the new degree offering will benefit not only current students, but GLMA alumni as well. "The ability to offer a four-year degree will put us on an even playing field with the other six maritime academies in the nation. I look forward to working with our alumni in an effort to create a path for them to earn a four-year degree. It's an option that many of them have never had before."
NMC hosted a visit of the Higher Learning Commission in August to assure the accrediting body that the necessary curriculum and support services were in place to offer courses at a new degree level.
Community college baccalaureates were made possible when Gov. Snyder signed a bill in January 2013, that authorized Michigan's 28 community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in four areas: maritime technology, energy production, culinary and cement technology.
"As we examine additional degrees in the areas of energy production and culinary, we can and will learn from our experiences in getting this degree established," Nelson said.
"This degree is important for industry that supported our pursuit of both legislation and accreditation. NMC's maritime program will continue to graduate top talent for an important sector of our economy."
NMC's Great Lakes Maritime Academy was established in 1969. The academy is one of only seven in the nation, and the only located on a body of freshwater. The GLMA currently has 186 cadets enrolled and admits 60 per year.
The academy prepares college students to become merchant marine officers and business professionals in a global marketplace. Curricula ranges from seamanship, navigation and piloting to steam and diesel engineering, along with 276 days of commercial sea time. NMC maritime alumni sail with fleets of the Great Lakes and oceans, with many serving as masters or chief engineers. The GLMA boasts a 100 percent employment rate for graduates.