Competency-based criminal justice program at A&M-Commerce continues to grow exponentially

Since its launch in March 2019, the competency-based Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program at Texas A&M University-Commerce has grown from seven students to more than 100.

The program puts a bachelor’s degree within the reach of thousands of Texas law enforcement workers, offering an affordable, flexible, accelerated path to graduation. The competency-based program grants course credit for students’ prior education and experience. For example, students can earn up to 30 credit hours for TCOLE certification (awarded to law enforcement officers for professional training).

The program is flexible to accommodate law enforcement officers’ busy schedules. All classes are online, and students can log in and complete coursework at their own pace within each seven-week term.

“The beauty of our program is that it bridges the academic with the practical workforce,” said Dr. Yvonne Villanueva-Russell, founding dean of the College of Innovation and Design.

According to Villanueva-Russell, there is a great need for this criminal justice program. Currently, 75,000 law enforcement officers work in the state of Texas, and the industry is increasing requirements for officers to obtain a bachelor’s degree in order to advance into command staff and administrative positions.

Program Director James Womack, Villanueva-Russell, and the Texas Affordable Baccalaureate (TAB) Advisory Board—which consists of police chiefs, the FBI, sheriffs’ offices, university professors and the Texas Rangers—worked together to develop the innovative new degree. To ensure the program’s effectiveness, the entire TAB team reviewed skills and traits they would like to see in law enforcement agents and then reverse-engineered the program from those expectations.

The first four students graduated from the program in December 2019, and all four graduated in nine months or less. According to Villanueva-Russell, they left better-prepared to compete in the 21st-century world of law enforcement.

To keep pace with the program’s rapid growth, the TAB team is hiring additional instructors and ramping up marketing efforts across the state. The college is also working on expanding the degree program to include other career fields in corrections, fire and rescue, property and evidence, records, and telecommunications.

To learn more about the competency-based Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, visit tamuc.edu/tabcj.