New bill may allow four-year degrees for San Diego community colleges

by Stephanie Saccente , Senior Staff Writer

In late September, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 850, allowing for 15 community colleges in California to offer four-year degrees. While the degrees will not replicate exactly any available degree at a University of California or California State University school, the pilot program will give students the opportunity to earn a specialized baccalaureate degree in a select workforce major.

According to the San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, more than half of the community college districts in California are submitting proposals to have bachelor’s degree programs. Carroll said only one school from each district can submit a proposal.

In the SDCCD, San Diego Mesa College will submit a proposal to offer a bachelor’s degree in health information management.

“The students are already there, the facilities are already there, the professors are already there and the associate degree program is already accredited,” Carroll said. “Students can continue to work and live in their homes with their families while completing the Bachelor’s degree at an institution that’s already acknowledged to be the top of its field. It’s a win win for everyone.”

Bachelor’s programs at other California community colleges could include dental hygiene, radiologic technology and automotive technology.
Carroll said many students enrolled in SDCCD schools have expressed interest in bachelor’s degree programs, although not all students feel that way.

Tim Platz, a management information systems senior at San Diego State, said he would not get a bachelor’s degree at a community college if they offered one in his field he was interested in.

“I believe college is more than the degree,” Platz said. “It’s about enhancing yourself as a person in as many attributes as you can. Having gone to a community college before attending SDSU, I recognize that now.”

To prepare for the possibility of Mesa College being selected, Carroll said the SDCCD has budgeted an additional $140,000 dollars to add more class sections and faculty. In addition, a statewide grant known as the Pathways Grant will be awarded to colleges selected for the program.

“I think between the money we already have set aside and the possibility of grant funding, we will be financially secure in supporting the program,” Carroll said.

Although the state Chancellor’s office has not confirmed when it will announce which schools have been selected, Carroll hopes schools will be informed by the end of October or early November.

With the Bachelor’s program set to begin on Jan. 1 and end on July 1, 2023, the first class of students could start as early this spring.

“This is not about changing the mission of California Community Colleges and trying to be like CSU schools and UC campuses,” Jack Beresford, the director of communications and public relations at SDCCD said. “This is directly in line with the traditional mission of our colleges, which is workforce preparation.”