Community Colleges Could Offer Four-Year Degrees

Proposal would allow community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in areas where there is a need in the local workforce.

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    California community colleges could soon offer bachelor’s degrees under a new proposed law.

    The state assembly voted unanimously to move the bill forward Thursday, and it could soon land on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.

    Under the proposal, community colleges wishing to offer four-year degrees would have to be in areas where there is a "demonstrated local workforce need."

    "This is landmark legislation that is a game changer for California’s higher education system and our workforce preparedness," said State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who authored the bill.

    "SB 850 boosts the focus of our community colleges on job training now when California faces a major skills gap in our workforce."

    Block said that in about 10 years, the state will require one million more adults to have four-year degrees. Currently, the community colleges are allowed to issue associates degrees and technical certificates. Students can then transfer to a four-year school to complete their bachelor's degrees.

    The University of California and California State University systems are the only public systems currently allowed to offer four-year degrees.

    "In cases where businesses, healthcare organizations, and other industries now require a bachelor's degree at their entry level, it is imperative that community colleges step forward to ensure the competitiveness of our students," said San Diego Community College Chancellor Dr. Constance Carroll in a statement.

    "That is a win-win proposition for our students, for employers, and for the economy."

    The bill would launch a pilot program that would allow 15 campuses in California would offer one type of baccalaureate degree starting Jan. 1.

    Students who enroll must complete the degree program by 2023.

    Community colleges in Los Angeles, San Diego and Napa Valley support the bill.

    Twenty one other states already have four-year degree programs at the community college level, according to the bill.

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