Northland Pioneer College (NPC) has received accreditation approval from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Arizona Department of Education for its first bachelor's degree program. The new Bachelor of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education (BAS-ECE) degree will be offered at all NPC campus locations this upcoming spring 2024 semester. Applications for admission to the program open on October 1, 2023.
In May of 2021, the adoption of Senate Bill 1453 allowed Arizona community colleges to begin offering baccalaureate degrees. After completing research, and gaining valuable feedback from the community and potential employers, partners, and stakeholders, NPC determined the need to develop a new degree that would help improve access to teacher preparation programs in Early Childhood Education.
According to NPC Associate Dean of Educator Preparation Programs, Dr. Allison Landy, who oversaw the degree’s development, the BAS-ECE “lives out” NPC’s mission of providing educational excellence that is affordable and accessible for the enrichment of communities across northeastern Arizona. “The community benefit of providing highly qualified, appropriately certificated teachers will be long-lasting,” she said. “We are thrilled to get authorization from the HLC and the Department of Education to offer this degree. It demonstrates that NPC is contributing to closing the equity and educational access gaps in northeast Arizona.”
Matt Weber, NAVIT Superintendent wrote in his letter of support to NPC’s district governing board, “It is becoming harder and harder to recruit teachers to rural school districts here in northeastern Arizona, and I, along with area superintendents, feel strongly that we need to grow our own teachers.”
NPC’s new bachelor’s degree option is specifically intended to support communities in Navajo and Apache counties and reduce current teacher shortages in preschool and kindergarten through third grade. Students in the program will now be able to continue their education toward teacher certification locally through NPC. Additionally, NPC associate degree graduates will be given priority for program admission. An array of scholarship opportunities are available for students who enroll.
NPC’s President Dr. Chato Hazelbaker explained, “Our mission is to develop high-quality, affordable programs that directly impact local students. Excellent educational programs sustain our communities. This program is a good example of how graduates will make a difference here, living and working in Navajo and Apache counties.”
In their review of the program, the HLC found that aspects of NPC’s mission of emphasizing access and affordability were evident in the planning. The BAS-ECE will be offered using a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. Tuition for the degree’s upper-division (300 and 400 level) courses is one of the lowest in the state and significantly less than the state universities. The HLC’s review concluded, “The addition of the bachelor's degree matches NPC’s vision to ‘continually respond to the needs of our communities by cultivating generations of learners’.”