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.