This week, the Wyoming Legislature gave final approval to a bill that would allow community colleges across the state to offer Bachelor of Applied Sciences degrees.

Wyoming community colleges enroll more than 25,000 students annually.

Many of those students are location-bound due to dependents, jobs or other factors. Statistics from the Wyoming Education Attainment Council indicate that 52.5 percent of adults ages 25-64 in Wyoming have not obtained a post-secondary credential.

We can do better. 

Making bachelor’s degrees more accessible to working adults aids in that mission. Community colleges often understand and can accommodate nontraditional students better than four-year schools. They know that many seeking these degrees will be adults returning to school and they can offer flexibility many four-year schools catering to traditional students cannot.

Northern Wyoming Community College District offers more than 20 Associate of Applied Science programs in areas ranging from agriculture and business to culinary arts, diesel technology, welding and hospitality management.

Not every job requires advanced calculus, so not every post-secondary program should either. These are practical, skill enhancing programs that fit Wyoming’s existing and potential industries. Any number of baccalaureate programs could align with existing options to allow individuals to further their education without having to relocate.

While it is too soon to tell what those programs would look like and unlikely that all programs offered at the associate level would be developed into baccalaureate programs immediately, the expanded options for Wyoming residents will only help the state be more prepared for economies of the future.

Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature on SF111 would move forward the state’s attempts to diversify its economy more than most efforts undertaken to date.