First Students To Earn Bachelor’s Degrees At Mesa College Graduate This Weekend
Nearly 4,000 San Diego community college students will receive their diplomas this weekend. Among them are 16 graduates who will earn bachelor’s degrees, some of the first in the state to do so through a community college.
Lawmakers approved a pilot program in 2014 to let 15 campuses add four-year degree programs. San Diego Mesa College took part, adding two years of instructions to its health information technology program so students can earn a bachelor’s in health information management.
MiraCosta College in Oceanside also started a bachelor’s degree program in biomanufacturing. It expects to graduate its first class next year.
“When I finished and got my (associate’s), the bachelor’s program was sort of right there in my lap. And I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do that, too,’” said Navy veteran Elizabeth Peacy. “And it’s been really great.”
Students like Peacy pay $10,500 for all four years — about half what they would pay at a California State University — and boost their earning potential to as much as $140,000.
That’s huge for Victoria Bradbury, who enrolled at Mesa five years ago after going through a divorce.
“I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and then all of a sudden, you just don’t know anymore,” Bradbury said of the divorce. “And I just always wanted to help people, and I thought that I wanted to do something in healthcare.”
She went through the associate’s program and then continued on to the bachelor’s program. She’s working at Sharp Home Health and looking forward to moving into new roles now that she has her degree. Bradbury said the higher earnings would help her pay for her children’s tuition; her daughter is graduating from high school this year and her son is a sophomore at San Diego State.
“The gift that I was given by being able to attend this bachelor’s program, it’s priceless,” Bradbury said. “It gives a lot of people like myself the opportunity to be able to not have a huge debt when I’m finished and to be able to support the rest of my family.”
That’s why participating colleges are now working with state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, to extend the pilot past its 2023 cutoff date. Senate Bill 1406 passed the Senate in April and is being weighed in the Assembly.
Elvia Esquer is also graduating from the program this weekend.
“In this nation, we need to be strong, and that means promoting higher education and making it affordable, where people don’t get discouraged because of the finances or because you’re underrepresented in a university,” Esquer said.
“I always wanted to get that higher degree, but I didn’t have the opportunity since I was young and I got married, had children,” she said. “Now being able to do this is really significant in my life.”
Program managers are already reviewing applications for next year’s class — the second to earn a bachelor’s at Mesa and the first with a full roster of students.