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Expansion of community college baccalaureate degrees could help racial equity, report says

As California’s community colleges add more baccalaureate degrees to their offerings, it could help improve racial equity in the state’s higher education systems, according to a new study.

The study by UCLA calls for a “strategic expansion” of baccalaureate degrees by centering racial equity as the community college system adds more of those degrees.

Assembly Bill 927, signed into law in 2021, permits California’s community college system to approve up to 30 bachelor’s degree programs annually. The system’s colleges already offer 24 such programs, including nine that were approved since last year.

The UCLA study notes that Latino students and Black students in the community college system transfer to the state’s four-year universities at lower rates than their peers.

“Our community colleges are filled with bright, talented students, but many face economic and structural challenges in the education system that hinder their ability to transfer to four-year colleges and complete their degree,” said Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, chair of the Department of Education at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies and a co-author of the report, in a statement. “The expansion of the Community College Baccalaureate degree programs offers the potential to do better by these students. We can further educational and racial equity by increasing access to opportunities for degree completion at local community colleges and help to meet our state’s educational and economic needs by increasing degree production.”