House Bill 3165, approved by the Texas Legislature in June 2019, allows Lone Star College System to establish an occupational and life skills associate degree program.
Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Houston, who co-authored the bill, said LSCS is one of two colleges nationwide to offer the program.
The associate degree program will be available to students enrolling this fall in LSCS’ lifePATH program, which serves as a four-year program for students with cognitive disabilities and is offered at the Tomball and Montgomery campuses, LSC-Tomball President Lee Ann Nutt said.
“Colleges have an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Arts in teaching. ... This legislation created a brand new type of associate degree,” Nutt said. “Nobody else in the state has it, and Lone Star [College] has it; Tomball started it.”
The lifePATH program launched in 2015 in Tomball and expanded to Montgomery in fall 2019, Nutt said.
“This gives these young folks a chance to function as independent adults, as working adults, to have fairly normal adult lives,” Oliverson said.
Previously, lifePATH students completed certificates but did not earn a degree, Nutt said.
“Our new cohort that starts in the fall will be able to start on that path to get the associate degree,” Nutt said. “We may be able to go back and do something to help the students that are in the program now also get that degree, but I’m not sure how that’s going to work yet.”
The law only allows LSCS campuses to offer the new associate program. The Legislature would need to give its approval for more community colleges to offer the program, Nutt said.
“We’ve taken that first big step; we’ve gotten approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,” she said. “Hopefully going forward, this is going to change the game for the entire state.”