The chancellor of California's vast community college system announced 15 schools on Tuesday that he wants to participate in a pilot program that allows the state's 2-year schools to offer baccalaureates for the first time.
The colleges presented by Chancellor Brice Harris to the system's Board of Governors came from 36 applicants and are located throughout the state, from Crafton Hills College near San Bernardino and Mesa College in San Diego to Feather River College in Quincy and Shasta College near Redding.
In the Bay Area, two of the schools chosen include Skyline College's respiratory program in San Bruno, and Foothill College's dental hygiene program in Los Altos Hills.
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Until now, the state's 112 community colleges have offered only 2-year degrees. But a bill authored by Democratic State Sen. Marty Block and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year established a seven-year pilot program that allows a maximum of 15 college districts to offer a single 4-year degree each in subjects not currently offered by the University of California or California State University systems.
Under the legislation, participating students would pay an additional $84 per unit for their upper-division courses. The regular per-unit fee for community college classes is $46 per unit.
Emergency services, dental hygiene, automotive technology, respiratory care and mortuary science are some of the degrees the participating community colleges plan to offer.
“It will definitely benefit me,” student Paula Gonzalez said. “By getting a Bachelor’s degree I will be able to have other options besides being a clinician.”
Foothill-De Anza Community College District Chancellor Linda Thor said the move will save students thousands of dollars.
“The total cost of getting a Bachelor’s in dental hygiene (would be) about $10,500 and that is significantly less than a private university,” Thor said.
Nineteen other states have community colleges that offer bachelor's degrees, according to the Community College Baccalaureate Association.
California's move comes as its higher education institutions are recovering from several years of deep budget cuts that limited enrollment and course offerings, making it harder for students to complete their studies.
Block said the program will help more students prepare for jobs without having to take out loans and give employers a more qualified workforce to draw from.
The Board of Governor's is being asked to give initial approval to the 15 schools Harris recommended. The selected programs will then undergo further review before a final vote scheduled for March.
NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro contributed to this report.