Grayson College is one step closer to being able to offer students a chance to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. The board of trustees recently approved adding funding for two additional instructors for the program, bringing the program to three full-time staff members.


“The request today is real simple,” Dava Washburn, associate vice president of instruction, said to the board. “We’ve got a program starting in August and I need some faculty on board to start things.”


Washburn said the two staff members would be staggered, with one starting with the fall semester and a second starting in January. She noted that if demand was higher than anticipated, this time schedule could be shifted to bring in the second instructor earlier. The college previously approved the hiring of Kristy Calloway to oversee the formation of the program and serve as its first instructor.


“We are making promises toward next year’s budget in advance, but we’ve got to approve the talent to start our program,” Grayson College President Jeremy McMillan said.


The cost and impact on the budget for these new positions remains uncertain and will vary depending on the experience of the candidates, Washburn said. On the low end, she estimated each instructor could see a salary of $42,000 if they come fresh with little experience beyond a master’s degree.


The move to expand the school’s nursing program started more than two years ago, but hinged on legislation that would allow state junior colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in certain fields. Texas lawmakers ultimately signed Senate Bill 2118, which allowed junior colleges to offer these degrees in applied sciences, applied technology and nursing.


The new nursing program will augment and compliment the school’s existing associate’s degree in nursing program, but will not effect the enrollment of the program, Dean of Health Science Joanna Barnes said. While the two programs will share some resources, they will be distinct from each other with regards to the topics that are covered, Barnes said.


The associate’s program is aimed at providing students the initial training they would need for certification as a nurse through 60 college hours. Barnes said the bachelor’s degree would be focused on certified nurses who have job experience and are looking to get the final 60 hours needed for the degree.


Barnes said there has been a push by many hospitals to have a certain percentage of their nursing staff educated to the bachelor’s level, which has led many nurses to continue their education after joining the workforce. The classes are likely to be less regimented than the associate’s program and will include online and night components to assist nurses who may be working alongside their studies, Barnes said.


College officials are uncertain how many students may enroll in the first year of the bachelor’s program. Early estimates call for about 35 students in each of the classes that are offered during the first semester. However, additional classes will be added during the spring semester.


If the program proves to be successful, Barnes said she could see it expanding to include six to eight full time faculty in the future.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.