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California Community Colleges One Step Closer To Offering 4-Year Degrees

Senate passes SB 850 with comments by Sen. Marty Block

A bill authored by a San Diego lawmaker allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees when a local workforce need can be shown is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after being passed by the Senate on Thursday.

State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, described SB 850 as a jobs bill.

"This is landmark legislation that is a game changer for California's higher education system and our workforce preparedness," Block said. "SB 850 boosts the focus of our community colleges on job training now when California faces a major skills gap in our workforce."

Currently, only the University of California and the California State University systems can offer public four-year degrees. Block noted that by 2025, California will need a million more adults with four-year degrees.

"We need to use all of California's resources — including our community colleges — to close that gap," Block said.

Block said that more than 20 states already allow community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees.

SB 850 authorizes the community college system to establish a pilot program that would allow no more than 15 campuses from 15 different districts to offer one baccalaureate degree each starting Jan. 1, 2015, and ending July 1, 2023.

“We feel that if everything went as planned, and was put on a fast track, that we could actually be implementing the programs in January of 2015,” San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll said.

Programs would begin no later than the 2017-18 academic year.

KPBS reporter Matt Bowler contributed to this report.