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Bachelor’s degree for geography offered through Palomar

After California Gov. Jerry Brown’s historic signing of AB 150, Palomar College will be offering another bachelor’s degree program.

Starting this semester, students in the Geographic Information Systems program will be able to work toward a bachelor’s degree. In a special agreement with Marshall University in West Virginia, students will be able to take online courses through them once they receive their certificate of achievement at Palomar.

Wing Cheung, associate professor of geography, came up with the idea while attending a professional conference.

“I talked to other colleges that have the same arrangement with different programs, like Southern Illinois (who offer a bachelor’s in Aviation Management),” Cheung said.

Once he saw how this could be beneficial to Palomar students, he went to his department chair, Catherine Jain.

“We are excited to be able to offer our students this opportunity,” Jain said via phone interview. “I think it makes our program more attractive to prospective students compared to other GIS programs.”

Cheung said he wanted to do this for his students.

“I have students who were looking to get bachelor’s degrees, but weren’t able to,” Cheung said.

The reason Cheung went with Marshall University was because either most local schools don’t offer bachelor’s degrees in geography, or their earth science programs are too impacted, he said.

For the last 18 months, Cheung worked closely with Marshall’s chair of geography, Dr. Joshua Hagen, to develop the program so his GIS students could seamlessly make the transition from Palomar to Marshall’s online course.

According to Jain, this change benefits Palomar students because this does not require having to move to West Virginia to complete their degree.

“This is beneficial for the non-traditional student as well, who can’t always attend classes due to work and other priorities,” Jain said.

Cheung added, “this program, price-wise, is comparable to other local schools, so it isn’t any more expensive than going to a school like SDSU.”

The program works in the following manner: students in the GIS program will complete their certificate of achievement at Palomar for the first two years, then take the online courses through Marshall University in years three and four to obtain their bachelor’s degree.

In a press release from Palomar, Dan Sourbeer, the school’s dean of natural and health sciences, expressed the importance of students getting their degrees and moving forward.

“GIS is a growing and important field,” Sourbeer said. “We are very pleased to be able to help Palomar’s GIS students get their bachelor’s degrees and then move on to rewarding careers.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, geography is becoming a more lucrative occupation compared to the average job. The median salary of a geographer is $74,760 per year.

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