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Bachelor's Degrees Coming To MiraCosta, Mesa Colleges

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January 22, 2015 1:21 p.m.

GUESTS:

Pamela Luster, president at San Diego Mesa College

Mary Bernard, vice president of instructional services at MiraCosta College

Related Story: Bachelor's Degrees Coming To MiraCosta, Mesa Colleges

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Our top story on midday addition two San Diego community colleges have been celebrating this week after being selected in a state wide pilot program, MiraCosta College and San Diego Mesa College will be among the first community colleges in California to be able to offer a four year degree in a selected course of study. In fact all community colleges have something to celebrate this week after being singled out in President Barak Obama state of the Union address. Obama praise the importance of community college and propose making them tuition free. Joining me to talk about that changing world of community colleges are my guests the president of San Diego Mesa College Dr. Pamela Luster and welcome Pamela to the show.

Pamela Luster: Thank you Maurine happy to be here.

Maurine: And Wise president of instructional services at MiraCosta College Dr. Mary Bernard and Mary welcome to the show.

Mary Bernard: Thank you very much I am happy to be here as well.

Maurine: Pamela what is the concept behind a allowing community college to offer bachelor’s degrees?

Pamela Luster: The concept is one of really work force and jobs what we are looking at are fields where this degrees are not available at a state University or ECS, UC or SCSU were we need to fellow work force gap and we know that as community college we can provide that.

Maurine: Now in the pilot program individual schools are only being allowed to offer one for year degree what is the degree at Mesa.

Pamela Luster: The degree at Mesa is health information management and the reason that we choice that degree is we have a two year credited program in healthy information technology and as you know we digitized all of our health records now and so these folks will be managing those health records and managing the folks that do the health information technology.

Maurine: And Mary the new four year program at MiraCosta is.

Mary Bernard: Bio manufacturing. We are building upon our existing biotechnology program we have an associate degree and several certificates that we offer in biotechnology and we are building on that to create a program in bio manufacturing which really targets the production aspect of the industry as suppose to the research based aspect and I think what is important to notice that we are addressing work force need identified un met work force need and this degrees are to help student develop the applied skilled so that they can work in this industries and develop the applied skilled rather than just a research base skills.

Maurine: It sounds as if you were in a sense able to choose what degree programs you wanted to start out with as a four year degree program. How did you make those choices you said Pamela you said you already had the health care as an associate degree program, but where there criteria it could not be something that Universities offer as a four degree program is that right?

Pamela Luster: Yes, that is correct when senate bill SP850 which was written [indiscernible] [00:03:09] past it had very specific guidelines that we would need to follow for this first pilot and one of them was the non-duplication and the other are really that there is a very strong labor market demand and that and also geographic location of the colleges they did not want to approve two bachelors degree of similar kind within the same geography. So a number of things, but primary labor market demand that there are really good jobs out there for this students when they gradually with the bachelors degrees.

Maurine: Now Mary you were heavily involved in a applying a MiraCosta for this program what was the process like?

Mary Bernard: Our process was very organic and that it was a facility let process and we basically are academic senate president Mike [indiscernible] [00:03:51] to him solicited interest from among the faculty on campus to develop baccalaureate programs and we did have faculty interested in automotive area, media, arts and technology, and bio manufacturing and so what we did was we asked for the faculty to put together a proposal one page proposal, identifying that the program and also providing the labor market information because it had to be, these programs have to address an unmet need and we also ask that they speak to whether or not this program is duplicative of an existing CSU or UC program. And so through that process that become clear that the bio manufacturing program was really supported and substantiated with recent labor market information identifying of San Diego is one of the top three hubs in the nation for the bio technology industry behind Boston and San Francisco and the industry is up in the North County surrounding the MiraCosta College so it was a perfect fit and the facility were interested in developing the program so we did a lot of work reaching out to our local CSU San Marcos in order to make sure that the program was not duplicative and UCSD. So we came from the campus there is a lot of energy on the campus supporting this.

Maurine: Lot of energy on both campuses.

Mary Bernard: Yeah.

Maurine: Let me ask you the question you must get an off a lot Pamela how old the cost of getting a four year degree at your campus at Mesa college compared to a four year University.

Pamela Luster: So I will speak specially to the health information management Bachelors degree the only one available in the state of California to Loma Linda University and it is a fantastic program. It cost about 60,000 dollars to complete a Bachelor’s degree at Mesa and really all the collage because our fees will all be aligned there will not be a differential in fees between the colleges we think a little over 10,000 dollars and tuition for all four years.

Maurine: So it is going to cost for all four years what less than it costs for one year at a standard University.

Pamela Luster: Yes.

Maurine: Okay, now will Mary will the community college application process changed for those who want to get into this four year course in another words will be it be more difficult to get in.

Mary Bernard: Will it be more difficult to get in we are actually working out the details on how students will transfer and I say that in quotations within the college from the two year program to the four year program and what the application process is going to be, but keeping in mind that we are open our associated degree program and certificate programs are opened to the top 100% of the people who apply. So we still have that and we are working out not only application criteria, but different pathways for students to recruit students into our baccalaureate programs.

Maurine: The idea I think it at Mesa I think I was reading this Pamela is that if you are in the associate degree program for healthcare information systems and you want to go into the four year degree that is going to be somewhat of a same as process. Is that right?

Pamela Luster: Yes, what we are doing we will actually beginning the program in the fall of 2015 in August this year and we are inviting freshmen into the program and they can declare at the time they come into the two year program that they could like to continue with the four year program they will have to meet all the requirements of the two year programs, but unique I think and I am sure MiraCosta is looking at this as well and fall of 2016, we will actually invite in a junior class that will start directly into the bachelors degree and those will be prior graduates of our Health Information Technology Program and we have a number of folks in the incumbent workers at scripts at Palomar Health at Kaiser UCSD they would like to comeback and get this Bachelor’s degree who are very successful in their careers now, but would like to get that degree.

Maurine: Sure.

Pamela Luster: So we will have a number of cohorts going through at the same that criteria for Health Information Management is they will have the pass the health information technologist at national examination that will be part of the selection criteria for going into the Bachelor’s degree.

Maurine: And Mary how is the campus gearing up for this expanded program that you are going to be introducing. What are the things that you have to do obviously you are going to have to be looking at what the question I just asked you whether or not they, the criteria for application is going to be changing in anyway, but also what needs to ramp up.

Mary Bernard: Well those are the, the application processes I am going to term is as the mechanics of it all, but the really big part is convening the industry representatives and we had a lot of strong support from the bio technology industry to submit this application and so it is convenient the industry in really flushing out the curriculum the upper level course curriculum and so.

Maurine: So they are going to take part of them.

Mary Bernard: Oh, absolutely yeah. So we are going to be developing the curriculum and we need to develop such that it address the need the unmet need because what is going on right now is the industry is training the work force because there is not a baccalaureate program to do it. So we are taking it on, we are the educators in the community so we are taking that responsibility back on. So we will be working with the industry to develop the program working with our internal mechanical systems as far as managing application, process finical aide, collecting fees, tuition, all of those we need to start and we do need to update our accreditation status because this changes the mission of the college from being a two year degree granting institution to allowing us to grant a four year degree.

Maurine: Absolutely. Mary how who long is this state wide pilot program expected to last.

Mary Bernard: Yeah, we have to be I think it is a, we have to be by 2017 and that is a six year program.

Pamela Luster: Correct and we have to be in the current program we would have to finish by 2023, we are helping of course that this will be so successful that communities will ask their legislators to take a look at whether or not we could not expand this pilot before it sunset in 2023, but we have to be up and running by 2017 and should have our last cohort graduating by 2023. So we do have to be careful about how we design the programs. We got our fingers crossed, that is going to be so spectacular that people just cannot help themselves.

Maurine: Well once the industry depends on us to produce the work force then it is going to be very difficult I think to shut something down. Let me go from this state program to this, from this state program to this national proposal that we heard that this week. I would like to get you a reaction what president Barak Obama said and he stated union speech about community colleges and Pamela what do you think about that proposal.

Pamela Luster: Yes, you know I will say that having the President of the United States focus on community colleges is remarkable to have that level of interest and have that level of understanding of what we do as community colleges and the work force engine that we are and the first two years of liberal studies that we are is remarkable, we have never had this kind of support does not hurt to have Dr. Jill Biden as a full-time community college instructor in the [indiscernible] [00:11:24], but it is really tremendous that we are having the discussion. Student loan debt is a huge problem and if we can somehow look lessen the burden of student loan debt for our students that do their first two years with community colleges I think it is terrific. I think we should be careful about what it says about the value of a community college education if it is free. And so I think we need to figure out what that looks like for students for families. So I welcome the dialog if someone if the President’s office listening and they want to call me and I will fly to Washington I am sure Mary would come with me. I would be really happy to just enter the dialog and start to talk about what is the value of the community college education and money a side, but student loan debt is a looming program for many and for families and it will crush our economy if we do not get a handle on it because people would not be able to afford a house if they are paying 700 dollars a month in student loans.

Maurine: What about the enrolment situation at community college is Mary and I do not remember couple of years we were doing stories about some students were standing you now because this class were so overcrowded with this new emphasis on four year degree program and their proposal, the President is making can community colleges sort of observe an influx of students.

Mary Bernard: Well you know Maurine I think we need to remain nimble and responsive to the change in demographic within our community and we are seeing as the number of high school graduates you know is decreasing now we are looking at surviving the population differently. So I think that what it does is it open up the doors for community colleges to really get in there and continue to contribute in the work force development arena as well as the your basic liberal laws study. So I do not see it as presenting any kind of a problem is far as the numbers what it does it is shifts how we serve the community and enrolment at Mesa is under control, I just do remembered reporting on this stories several years ago, that they were just community colleges were overwhelmed.

Pamela Luster: Yes we are doing fine we expect to see about 25000 students on Monday as we begin the spring semester. There are still classes open for those people who want to come. I think capacity is always going to be an issue, but we just need to be flexible and nimble as Mary was saying there are many ways to serve students, there are many way for students to learn information and if anyone can do it is the community colleges because it is how we do business for we do things I think more flexibly.

Maurine: Yes, you know and I think it really speaks to how we serve the community our role is to serve the community and as serving the students and addressing their educational needs, but also our local industry and addressing the work force development needs, so.

Maurine: Well that was going to be my last question because you now with this expanded role at the community colleges are taking on. Do you think that the community colleges are risking loosing some of their identity some of that you know smaller personal connection with students that has always been the hallmark of the community college experience, Pamela.

Pamela Luster: I do not believe that they were in danger of losing their identity because we are still going to have the structures in place that create that safety net for our students we are going to have free tutoring. We are going to have student veteran centers, we are going to make sure that students have a place to talk to a counselor if they have mental health needs, our classes will not become 200, 300, 400 percent lectures that is that just not how we are build. So I do not believe that will change our identity in terms of how we serve our student I do believe it will change our identity in terms of our ability and our right for place and higher education because I think often we are dismissed as people sort of second or third choice. We are most people first choice.

Maurine: And Mary the last word.

Mary Bernard: I just think that you know our focus has expanded our mission has expanded from access from just focusing on accessing to focusing on student access and success and so we are really about helping students to succeed and so we are going to continue to deliver the educational services in the way that best supports the students to succeed in these programs.

Maurine: Thank you both very much I have been speaking with the President of San Diego Mesa College Dr. Pamela Luster and Vice President of Instructional Services at MiraCosta College Dr. Mary Bernard. Thank you so much both of you.

Pamela Luster: Thank you.

Mary Bernard: Thank you.