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California Funds Pilot Allowing CCs To Issue Bachelor's Degrees

A move in California to allow community colleges to issue bachelor's degrees in fields not currently served by the California State University or University of California systems has received a new boost. A pilot program has received $6 million in state funding to cover start-up costs.

The money provided for the new "Baccalaureate Pilot Program" will support establishment of one new bachelor's degree program at each of 15 California community colleges. Each college will receive $350,000.

The programs will focus on career-technical fields such as dental hygiene, automotive technology, biomanufacturing and airframe manufacturing technology, none of which is currently offered within the state's public university system.

As an example, San Diego's Mesa College will spend the money to help launch a four-year program in health information management, including hiring faculty and doing program development. Starting salaries for the first cohort of graduates are expected to range between $83,000 and $144,000.

The remaining funds in the pool will be used by the community colleges' Chancellor's Office to cover overall program management.

Under a new law signed in fall 2014, community colleges participating in the program would charge $84 more per unit for upper-division baccalaureate coursework than they currently charge for lower-division courses.

According to State Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego), who authored the legislation, the initiative is expected to be a "game changer for California students and the state's workforce." He estimated that "a million more adults" could earn baccalaureate degrees by 2030 if the pilot succeeds.

Affordability was a major driver for the pilot. Whereas the four-year community college students will pay about $10,560 in fees and tuition for their degrees, Cal State in-state students will pay $27,036 for four years of study.

California is far from the first state to go this route. According to Block, 22 other states already have similar programs in place.

"One of the top priorities of community colleges is preparing students for well-paying jobs in the twenty-first century. With many industries now requiring bachelor's degree preparation in fields in which no programs exist at public universities, community colleges across the nation have stepped up to provide the training that students need to be competitive," he said in a prepared statement. "This is indeed an accessible doorway to an improved local and state economy, as well as an entry to the middle class."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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