Initiative 3# - LCCC Expansion: Baccalaureate Degrees

These action steps are outlined in the Community and Economic Development strategy.

Objective

Begin offering applied baccalaureate degrees at Laramie County Community College (LCCC) to support long-term economic and workforce competitiveness.


Action 3.1 : Develop a coalition through Forward Greater Cheyenne to build support for the development of applied bachelor's degree programming at LCCC and establish a vision for residential and instructional facilities in Downtown Cheyenne.

As highlighted in the research phase, Greater Cheyenne benefits tremendously from the degree production and capacity at LCCC. However, the community must depend entirely on talent recruitment at the upper end of the educational attainment spectrum (bachelors and advanced degrees). This is a remarkably difficult obstacle to overcome in the community's economic evolution, regardless of its proximity to UW, CSU, and other higher education institutions. Students at these institutions spend four years living and potentially falling in love with these communities; Cheyenne has not been afforded this opportunity. Meanwhile, there is unquestionably room for additional capacity in the production of bachelors and advanced degrees in the state of Wyoming. As of 2016, the per capita level of bachelors and advanced degree production in Wyoming ranks 48th; the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Catholic College would need to nearly double their annual output of degrees, issuing roughly 1,900 more bachelors and advanced degrees each year, to bring the state up to the national average. An additional 900 degrees a year would be needed to simply bring the state up to the 20th percentile (ranking of 40th out of the 50 states).

Very simply, there is opportunity for both the region and state, and LCCC is well-positioned to support these needs by offering applied baccalaureate degrees in specific fields that align with the region's and state's economic diversification objectives and targeted economic activities. And Forward Greater Cheyenne, its Steering Committee, and the various partners that it represents are well positioned to form the foundation of a coalition that will be needed to advance this opportunity. This coalition should be extended to engage necessary partners at the state and institutional level, incorporating leadership that is working to advance state objectives with respect to educational attainment levels and economic diversification. It should be tasked with working with LCCC to secure buy-in from the business community and aforementioned partners, develop appropriate programming, identify physical sites to support LCCC's growth and expansion, and evaluate a variety of other opportunities that could emerge along the way. This could include the development of a Middle College in partnership with school districts to provide a more intentional pipeline for targeted, homegrown talent development that would lead from high school to college to career in Greater Cheyenne. It could also include opportunities to align and incorporate applied baccalaureate programming with other community objectives such as entrepreneurship and efforts to establish a Cheyenne Center for Enterprise & Entrepreneurship (see Initiative #4).

While definitions vary between institutions, applied baccalaureate degrees (i.e. Bachelor of Applied Science) typically requires fewer liberal arts courses and more heavily emphasizes educational offerings in a specific field of study. Many students pursue applied bachelor's degrees following completion of an associate's degree (Associate of Applied Science), or return to earn their applied bachelor's degree after years working as a professional in their field of study. Many programs are in STEM- or business-related fields: common program areas include engineering, nursing, physical sciences, information technology, and various business management disciplines such as supply chain management and accounting. While the University of Wyoming serves as the state's flagship institution awarding bachelor's degrees, LCCC can differentiate its program in a way that aligns with core strengths (applied science, technical education, and professional education).


Action 3.2: Launch the Cheyenne Area Workforce Alliance to help develop appropriate programming and curriculum, and ensure alignment of K-12 career pathways with existing and new LCCC programming.

The 2014 Cheyenne LEADS Workforce Study recommended the formation of a Talent Demand Working Group to discuss current and forecast employer skill needs, training capacities, and educational programs. According to stakeholders, while some progress has been made in aligning programming at LCCC with the needs identified in the Workforce Study, there is still room for improvement and a need for a coordinated, collaborative effort to guide this alignment over time. The potential offering of new applied baccalaureate degrees only heightens this need.

A new Cheyenne Area Workforce Alliance can fill this role, providing ongoing support to the community's partners in education and training - most notably, its school systems, LCCC, and nearby universities -to inform program refinement and development. The Alliance would be ideally comprised of roughly equal representation from the education/training community and the private business community. Similar alliances in other communities have helped develop career pathways, career academies, and middle college programs to promote alignment between their economy's growing occupations and the area's educational opportunities. Others have focused more heavily on specific, critical needs by soliciting commitments from employers to support new curriculum development or by helping to advance articulation agreements. The Cheyenne Area Workforce Alliance can have an enduring mission to promote alignment between educational programming and employer needs, while prioritizing support for LCCC's potential expansion and offering of applied baccalaureate degrees. Research completed as part of this process -the Economic and Workforce Profile -as well as other recent research endeavors such as the 2014 LEADS Workforce Study can help inform programming needs. A variety of formal and informal models have been adopted around the country to help advance proactive workforce alignment, from collective impact initiatives that have flourished based on the success of the Strive Partnership model in Cincinnati, Ohio to Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiatives supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These various models employs varies tactics but generally are guided by common principles: a focus on metrics-driven outcomes, a model predicated on private sector engagement, and a backbone organization to provide ongoing staff support.


Action 3.3: Evaluate opportunities to establish LCCC instructional and residential facilities in Downtown Cheyenne.

The vision for LCCC's expansion and offering of applied bachelor's degrees should include careful consideration for the role that LCCC can play in Downtown Cheyenne's transformation. The community has invested in the institution's tremendous facilities south of downtown but potential exists to leverage the expansion of program offerings to support a catalytic project in Downtown Cheyenne: new instructional and residential facilities for LCCC. Entire departments and programs of study could be relocated to a downtown campus, and/or specific portions of the student body could elect to reside in a downtown dormitory.

The addition of potentially hundreds of new students to downtown's daytime population (instructional facilities) and nighttime population (residential facilities) would be a game-changer for downtown revitalization efforts. A number of potential sites exist for new instructional or residential facilities, but as with other redevelopment projects that have evaluated specific sites in and around downtown, significant obstacles can deter potential investors and derail an otherwise viable project. Creative and collaborative financing solutions may be needed.

Rachel Girt