An agreement signed by the presidents of Odessa College and University of Texas of the Permian Basin on Wednesday will make it easier for students to transition between the two institutions of higher learning.

The announcement of the Pathways Articulation Agreement was made in the Zant Room of the Saulsbury Campus Center before a room packed with officials from both schools, students and the community.

In contrast to previous OC-UTPB articulation agreements, this is the first one to have course levels specifically identified for four-year paths to a bachelor’s degree and improves the ability for credits to transfer.

Odessa College Vice President for Instruction Valerie Jones, who was the event emcee, said the agreement takes effect immediately and will first impact students who enroll at OC this summer, but the larger number will probably come in the fall.

Research shows that after leaving Odessa College with a two-year technical degree, graduates can enter the world of work and make $110,000 to $111,000 a year after five years, OC President Gregory Williams said.

Jones said the percentage of people in Ector County with baccalaureate degrees is 13 to 16 percent.

“In terms of higher education outcomes, our region is not doing as well as other regions,” Williams said. “We can do better. That’s OC; that’s UTPB; that’s the community; that’s ECISD (Ector County Independent School District).”

Williams said part of the reason for the lower educational attainment level in the Permian Basin is that people don’t need a higher degree to make a “great living here.”

“We get that. That’s part of our work, but we can overcome (it). That’s why we have to have ideas that are outside the box,” Williams said.

UTPB President Sandra Woodley said partnerships between community colleges and universities are vital. She noted that she also started off at a community college.

Woodley married at 18 and said in a previous interview that it took her 10 years and two babies to finish her undergraduate degree.

“This partnership is important in order to best serve students in our region and beyond. Working with Odessa College allows us to help students navigate the path to earn their baccalaureate degree. We are committed to being student focused and responsive to our community,” Woodley said in a news release.

Odessa Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Renee Earls talked in part about the importance of a strong education system in attracting and retaining businesses.

David Martinez, a sophomore at Odessa College who is studying mass communications, plans to attend UTPB when he’s finished at OC.

“I think it’s a great idea because a lot of the time we hear from former students that the transition is a lot harder than what most people think,” Martinez said.

He added that moving to a university does scare you a little bit and you may think you don’t want to make the transition.

“But hearing this and hearing how they’re going to make it easier and more comfortable for students, it’s going to help me personally. I think it’s really going to help a lot of our students, as well,” Martinez said.

Having the degree paths spelled out will give him stepping stones to follow.

“I think, overall, it will improve enrollment numbers, which in turn will help the school, which in turn will help the community, so it’s like a cycle that’s always going to help people I feel like,” Martinez said.