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A bill that would allow community colleges to offer specialized bachelor’s degrees has passed the Legislature and is headed to the governor.

Senate Bill 850, by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, would set up a pilot program allowing 15 community college campuses to offer one bachelor’s degree each. The degrees can’t duplicate one that is already offered at California State University or University of California campuses, and must be offered in a field that meets a local work force need. The community college degree programs would begin no later than the 2017-18 school year.

If the bill is signed, California would become the 22nd state that allows community colleges to offer the four-year degrees. The bill doesn’t specify majors, but the degrees would likely be offered in specialized fields, such as automotive technology, which have undergone significant technological advances in recent years and require a more highly educated work force. Certificate programs or associate degrees traditionally offered by community colleges often aren’t enough to secure a job.

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

California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris also hailed the legislation as helping address “California’s urgent work force needs.”

“In today’s economy, many businesses require their employees to possess a four-year degree or higher skill sets than are offered through associate degree programs, even in fields such as dental hygiene or automotive technology where a two-year degree would have been sufficient in the past,” Harris said in a statement.


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  1. Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

    I'm skeptical. Moves like this generally add to academic inflation, increase the debt load for the next generation, and increase expenses for the state of California, which is not in robust financial shape. Such vocational degrees are not true bachelor's degrees as the term is generally understood around the world, and may further undermine the credibility of America's educational system, while also undermining the worth of all existing bachelor's degrees. Employers' needs for more highly … Read More

    I’m skeptical. Moves like this generally add to academic inflation, increase the debt load for the next generation, and increase expenses for the state of California, which is not in robust financial shape. Such vocational degrees are not true bachelor’s degrees as the term is generally understood around the world, and may further undermine the credibility of America’s educational system, while also undermining the worth of all existing bachelor’s degrees. Employers’ needs for more highly skilled workers are understandable, but if they are insisting on bachelor’s degrees for employment (a generally bad idea, from a social standpoint), they may be using that requirement as a signalling device, trying thereby to identify more highly intelligent and persistent potential employees; in which case having the very same young people hang on for two more years in the same schools whose leavers are currently being rejected will not serve much purpose, and will further burden with debt and discriminate against in particular our working poor families, many of whom will not be able to afford the extra two years of community college.

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    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      The good part is it will be very inexpensive. I still think we should try to provide financial aid so all graduates go to a 4-year University for at least 2 years. Debt will easily be payable considering you double your income with a degree. I think this will lower the value of a degree and people with a BS from a JC won't make 90% more as those do now. … Read More

      The good part is it will be very inexpensive. I still think we should try to provide financial aid so all graduates go to a 4-year University for at least 2 years. Debt will easily be payable considering you double your income with a degree. I think this will lower the value of a degree and people with a BS from a JC won’t make 90% more as those do now. I think this is going too far.

      WE have raised the cost so much faster than inflation it is tempting. Community college is nearly free. Cost won’t be an issue. Anyone with any grit can come up with $1000 a semester.

      • Bruce William Smith 2 years ago2 years ago

        You may be right; but I fear the community colleges will just start acting like Cal State and UC, will get their students hooked on Pell Grants and other federal largess, and will start raising their rates for these "special" degree programs, and we'll be almost back where we started, with the academic inflation and opportunity costs (lost years of employment due to time spent in the four-year programs rather than in the workforce) becoming … Read More

        You may be right; but I fear the community colleges will just start acting like Cal State and UC, will get their students hooked on Pell Grants and other federal largess, and will start raising their rates for these “special” degree programs, and we’ll be almost back where we started, with the academic inflation and opportunity costs (lost years of employment due to time spent in the four-year programs rather than in the workforce) becoming still more entrenched than they are at present. But I agree, we’ve got to do something to bring down the cost of tuition. An op-ed in today’s Orange County Register addresses this topic, advocating that California try some innovative ideas developing in Texas and Florida. I would propose that instead we follow the strategy of Finland — top-ranked for higher education access and affordability — whose approach is quite different. There tertiary education is free to the students, each of whom is also granted a student benefit to subsidize the cost of living; but such benefits depend upon the students having earned qualifications in upper secondary school, so that taxpayer money is not wasted on the clearly underprepared.

  2. Andrea Calabrese 2 years ago2 years ago

    I think it's a great idea! I'm a Dean's Honor List graduate with two Associate's and a technical degree in Nursing. If we could get a Bachelor's in Liberal Arts from the Community College (i.e. SMC), then we could spend more time working on our Master's Degrees at the University. Instead of, wasting more time repeating classes we've already taken at the Community Colleges, already. Lots of kids would be … Read More

    I think it’s a great idea! I’m a Dean’s Honor List graduate with two Associate’s and a technical degree in Nursing. If we could get a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts from the Community College (i.e. SMC), then we could spend more time working on our Master’s Degrees at the University. Instead of, wasting more time repeating classes we’ve already taken at the Community Colleges, already. Lots of kids would be inspired to work towards their Master’s Degrees–something they may never have thought possible before!

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