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New Law Lets Community Colleges Offer Bachelor’s Degrees

Photo caption:

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Marissa Gozalez, 24, walks across the stage at Spreckles Organ Pavilion during the San Diego City College commencement ceremony, May 21, 2011.

The new law allows the California chancellor of community colleges to choose 15 community colleges to be the first in the state to offer bachelor's degrees.

One of the many bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law over the weekend makes it possible for some community colleges in California to offer bachelor's degrees.

The new law allows the California chancellor of community colleges to choose 15 community colleges to be the first to offer bachelor's degrees.

San Diego Community College Chancellor Constance Carroll said many schools are vying for a spot in the pilot program.

“Well, statewide I know at least 47 of the 72 community college districts are planning to submit proposals, and we are too,” Carroll said.

Getting a four-year degree has become more and more difficult. Last year, more than 77,000 people applied to San Diego State University and more than 89,000 tried to go to UC San Diego. Applications far exceed openings at both SDSU and UC San Diego.

State Sen. Marty Block introduced and co-authored the bill. He said that the difficulty of getting into SDSU and UC San Diego inspired him to write the bill.

“In San Diego it's difficult to get a four-year public bachelor's degree because San Diego State is so impacted, UCSD is impacted,” Block said. “So it occurred to me, why not let San Diego City College, Mesa College, all of the other good colleges in San Diego and the state offer this four-year degree.”

Block served on the San Diego Community College Board for eight years before being elected to the state Senate.

He said the lack of job prospects for students with associate degrees inspired him to propose the bill.

“One of the worst things about being on the Community College board was seeing students cross the stage when they graduated with their two year associate's degree, knowing they weren't going to be able to get jobs, because they needed a four-year bachelor's,” Block said.

For Block and Carroll this was as much a jobs bill as an education bill. They say that the bachelor's degree programs offered will be tied directly to need in the job market. Carroll said she hopes the San Diego Community College district will be able to offer a health information management bachelor's degree.

More than 20 states allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees, according to Block.

Baccalaureate degrees offered at the chosen campuses will not duplicate degrees offered by UC or the CSU campuses.

Block said that the bill was also a response to for-profit schools targeting veterans.

“For-profit schools, some of which do a good job, many of which don't, largely prey on our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Block said. “They have certain technical skills they’ve garnered in the military but need further training and need a credential that will get them employment in the private sector, and we’ve been short changing them. This bill really opens the door for our veterans."

If a San Diego community college is chosen to be one of the 15 schools in California to offer a bachelor's degree, the first class of students could start as soon as this spring.

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