California community colleges could offer four-year degrees as soon as next January if the governor approves, according to officials.
San Diego political, education and business leaders gathered Thursday to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 850. SB 850 has already passed in the state senate and assembly.
The Golden State will need one million more people with four-year degrees by 2025, according to State Sen. Marty Block of San Diego who wrote the bill. Block said SB 850 aims to fill skill gaps in the California workforce.
“One of our biggest issues of the moment is finding skilled people to support the ongoing growth of our business,” said Rick Timm, President of SeaBotix, which hosted Thursday’s news conference. SeaBotix manufactures remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for law enforcement, Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal and more.
If the bill is approved, community colleges would offer a variety of four-year degrees, including Respiratory Therapy, Radiologic Technology, Health Information Management, Automotive Technology Management, Veterinary Technology and Public Safety Administration.
“None of the degrees will duplicate degrees offered by the UC or CSU,” Block said.
The new measure isn’t meant to turn community colleges into four-year institutions, but rather adapt to increased job requirements, according to San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, Ph.D.
Carroll cited dental hygiene as an example. The job used to require a two-year associate’s degree, but now calls for a bachelor’s degree.
“No public university in California offers a four-year bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene. You would have to go to a very high cost, for-profit institution,” she said.
In the first year, 15 community colleges across California would each offer a different four-year degree based on regional workforce needs. Mesa College in San Diego would be part of the pilot program.
Block said community colleges could offer four-year degrees for about $10,000.
SB 850 also targets military members. About 15,000 troops transition from the military to civilian life each year in San Diego, according to San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) Executive Director Larry Blumberg.
“We hope that once these curriculums are established that our veterans will be given priority for admission,” Blumberg said.
Gov. Brown received the bill on Aug. 28. He has 30 days to sign it into law.