Tyler Junior College to offer bachelor's degree in dental hygiene

Published on Monday, 23 November 2015 20:25 - Written by BETTY WATERS, blw@tylerpaper.com

Tyler Junior College will have a new four-year degree – the college’s first – expected to start next fall.

The college’s board of trustees last week authorized administrators to move forward with creating a Bachelor of Science degree in dental hygiene, which likely will start in fall 2016.

It will be the college’s first bachelor’s level degree and will expand the two-year associate degree dental hygiene program the college has had for 45 years.

Currently, the bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is offered only at four-year schools in Texas.

No one in the state has newer or better equipment or a larger lab outside of a dental school, TJC President Dr. Mike Metke said. “We have the newest and finest program in the state that we are aware of,” he said.

TJC has facilities for the program in the new Robert M. Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center. Since research shows dental care is the biggest health need in East Texas and TJC has facilities, the bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene is a good fit for the college, Metke said.

TJC already offers the first three years of the bachelor’s program.

Starting salary of dental hygienists is around $72,000, Metke said.

The next steps in the process of creating the new bachelor’s degree will be seeking approval of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Legislative action on the issue first was granted after State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and state Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, filed companion bills in the Texas Legislature last spring to create the dental hygienist bachelor program.

Numerous public entities, including the city of Tyler and Tyler ISD, passed resolutions supporting TJC’s drive to offer the bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

The bills, introduced by Eltife and Clardy, amended the Texas Education Code to allow the Texas Education Coordinating Board to approve the program for TJC.

Both bills passed the state Legislature and the coordinating board subsequently approved the program.

Currently, no higher education institution between Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana, offers the bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene.

TJC can staff the new bachelor’s program with existing employees but may add one instructor depending on enrollment, college officials said.

Upper-level courses to be created include cultural competence in oral health, advanced dental health care ethics, dental hygiene educational concepts, evidence-based dental hygiene practice, contemporary issues in dental hygiene, grant writing strategies for oral health projects, dental hygiene case development, dental hygiene practicum, interprofessional collaboration and current issues in periodontics.