Students at the Lone Star College - Montgomery campus may be able to use their degrees to take them to new heights —literally.
At an LSC Board of Trustees meeting in early August, board members approved a motion to offer a Professional Pilot Certificate Level 1 and Associate of Applied Science degree beginning in Spring 2019.
LSC - Montgomery President Rebecca Riley said they are eagerly awaiting an on-time approval to take flight from the Texas Higher Education Board and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The expansion comes as a pilot shortage looms, both domestically and internationally.
“We met with the Air Line Pilots Association, and they know what their hiring needs are going to be based on retirements. They’ll need thousands of pilots over the next 10 years,” Riley said.
To help fill that gap, the college wants to offer a curriculum based on the Federal Aviation Association’s flight training requirements for students to obtain both commercial pilot and certified flight instructor licenses.
In order to tack on the applied science associate’s degree, which includes math, English and even meteorology courses, it would involve 15 to 18 normal credit hours as well.
Roughly speaking, the combined training could take students about two years to complete. Yet, this varies from student-to-student based on when they are ready to pass their written and technical flight tests.
The new area of study comes at a high price, though: for an individual entering the program with no prior fight hours, the bill adds up to $65,000.
“The cost of flight training is what it is. It involves the cost of the aircraft, fuel and instructor, but the cost of tuition varies tremendously from college to college,” Riley said.
At the Lone Star College system, regular in-district tuition for 15 credit hours this school year is less than $1,000. Riley said with the new program, students can complete their first two years of schooling with less debt than if they completed the program at another school, therefore saving money along the way.
Since most airlines require potential pilots to have bachelor’s degrees, Riley said the college is working with partners such as Sam Houston State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to ensure that students can transfer to a four-year institution as seamlessly as possible.
Three board members voted against the program, but the motion ultimately passed. While she didn’t want to speculate as to why some board members voted no, Riley said a primary concern was the cost of the program.
“We’re concerned about that as well, so we’re looking into every resource available. For students who make it all the way through to their license and continue to accumulate their flight hours toward commercial jobs, it’s a very lucrative career,” Riley said.
The college anticipates enrolling three different groups of 20 students next year in the program.
Student Services building on track for 202 opening
Switching gears, LSC-Montgomery is making headway with their new 60,000 square feet Student Services building.
It’s a $25.5 million project, paid for by a $485 million bond approved in 2014.
“The primary need (for the new building) is growth. Students will have the same basic suite of services — admissions and registration, financial aid, advising—but we’ll be able to provide them more efficiently with a bigger building and more common spaces,” Riley said.
Programming for the project, done by architect Harrison Kornberg, has begun. The building is slated for completion in spring 2020.
Classes at LSC-Montgomery begin the week of Aug. 27, when about 16,000 students are expected to return to campus.