Yes! The 4-year undergraduate option became a reality on some California Community College (CCC) campuses in 2014. It started with a pilot program offering bachelor’s degrees at 15 community colleges in our state. Last month Governor Newsom created new legislation by signing Assembly Bill 927 into law. This expands and makes the pilot program permanent. The 4-year bachelor’s degree is offered at up to 30 other CCC locations. Community college administrators are now submitting their suggestions to expand the current offering.
California is blessed to have 117 community colleges statewide. These campuses offer 2-year associate degrees as well as certificates in a variety of career fields. The need to expand higher education opportunities in California is in response to graduate demand. The Public Policy Institute of California reported, “If current job trends continue, California will be short of 1.1 million workers with a bachelor’s degree by 2030.”
This forecast is based on recent economic trends. The need for college graduates has grown over the past decade. Baby boomers are retiring, while advances in technology and new industries are opening up innovative career fields that require highly skilled and skilled workers. The bachelor’s degrees on offer focus on subject areas that address the unmet labor needs in each region.
The degrees are unique to CCCs. Programs at the community colleges are not duplicated if classes are already offered by local universities.
Another concern in California was the need to create more equity in obtaining a college degree. Underserved populations regularly attend and complete college at a lower percentage, resulting in income gaps and sustained employment. A major advantage of this new opportunity allows students more flexibility and at a lower cost than attending a traditional university. These career-oriented degrees focus on the technical knowledge needed in high-demand career fields. In addition to technical skills, students enrolled in the bachelor’s program are expected to think critically and creatively, solve problems and manage large-scale projects. Some currently available majors are Respiratory Medicine, Dental Hygiene, Automotive Engineering, and Biomanufacturing. For a full list of current degrees, visit: https://icangotocollege.com/bachelor-s-graduate-pilot-program
Of course, not every parish offers the 4-year degrees, and they are limited. Students can continue to earn their associate degree or certificate and transfer to a 4-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree. However, allowing students to pursue a bachelor’s degree through their local community college removes many barriers to higher education. It allows more Californians to earn a 4-year degree in a rewarding career while staying closer to home. Many of these programs offer online options as well as hybrid and face-to-face classes.
Tuition for a bachelor’s degree for a state student at a community college averages $10,500 for the entire four years. This does not count the savings one may receive through the California College Promise Grant or by filing a FAFSA to receive federal or state aid, if eligible. Compared to an approximate average of $6,600 per year at a Cal State University or $14,000 per year at a University of California, this is a significant price reduction.
Who Should Consider Studying 4 Years Through a CCC? It is important to consider your educational and career needs before deciding on an option. You should review the course of study you would take for the degree. Speak to the campus counselor, try some free online assessments to compare your interests, values and preferences to careers. For lateral entrants or those looking for professional advancement, the CCC bachelor’s degree may be cheaper than a university bachelor’s degree.
In addition to California, 24 states currently offer the opportunity to obtain a bachelor’s degree at the community college level. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time workers ages 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree earned a median annual wage of $52,000 in 2021, compared with $30,000 for full-time workers of the same age with a high school diploma and no degree. The demand for highly qualified workers in the state is needed to significantly improve our economy, infrastructure, health care and education systems. Earning a bachelor’s degree remains a key advantage in the job market. When we close the equity gaps by providing affordable tuition options and flexibility for education, we will benefit both individually and collectively.
Rose Murphy is a retired high school counselor who now works as an independent education counselor. She can be reached at [email protected] or abestfitcollege.com.