Bachelor’s Degrees for California’s Community Colleges to be Determined

Jack Beresford

Kristina Cox, Staff Writer

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The San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees voiced its support for Legislative bill SB850 on Feb. 27, which would offer California Community College students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree without ever having to leave Mesa College.

One of the primary reasons many students attend community college is that 4-year universities can be extremely costly, leaving many students in severe debt.  According to The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 5.4 million students that took out student loans have balances that are past due, as of 2011. The balance increases more every year.

If community colleges in California start providing baccalaureate programs, it would open up opportunities for students who cannot leave home or attend 4-year universities for financial or family reasons. This would also reduce the large amount of university applications (and rejections due to minimal space). According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), 21 states already allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees.

The possibility of bachelor’s degrees becoming available at the community college level excites many students. Monica Rivera, a Mesa College student, said that if the bill were to pass, it would be “better for us [as students] because it will be more affordable and more people are going to try to get bachelor’s degrees.”

The cost per unit for baccalaureate level classes is up for debate, according to Mesa College President, Dr. Pamela Luster. Because courses under the new program are more advanced and would require staff with higher qualifications, the cost of baccalaureate units might be more expensive. Regardless of these price increases, a community college bachelor’s degree would still be significantly more affordable.

So, what programs is this new bill going to apply to? The bill will first focus on impacted programs. Luster stated, “We’re really looking at impacted workforce needs, where it’s difficult for students to get baccalaureate level programming.” Many students attend Mesa in hopes of fulfilling their general education requirements in order to transfer to one of the university health programs that San Diego is known for. The problem is that prerequisites for the health program are impacted along with the health program itself, leaving little to no room for newer students to transfer into baccalaureate health programs.

If SB850  passed (which should be determined this year), Luster said it would go into effect for one of three programs: radiologic technology, physical therapy assistant and health information technology.

While the passing of the bill would only provide this baccalaureate program to Mesa students in one of those fields, it is still a big step for the California Community College System. Health programs in California state universities are very impacted and obtaining jobs after college is becoming more difficult for students in health programs. Luster said that this is because “the level of training [in the health industry] is expected, now, to be at baccalaureate level.” So, the competition for jobs in the health industry is increasing. Adjusting to the impacted health system is a leveling process. “The industry is changing and we need to change with it,” Luster said.

The passing of SB850 could potentially open up a big window of opportunity for students in the health field. Luster stated that more baccalaureate programs may become available in the future.  Many variants, such as the cost per unit and when this will go into effect, are still unknown. However, the prospect of Mesa students being given the chance to achieve a bachelor’s degree could be something to celebrate.

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