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Science Careers Blog

December 29, 2009

Bachelor's Degrees Proposed for California Community Colleges

In May on this blog, we told how the state of Florida had expanded the number of community colleges offering bachelor's degrees, many in science and technology. Now California is considering a similar idea, according to an article by Matt Krupnick last week in the Contra Costa Times, published in northern California.

Up to now, California has made a sharp distinction between its four-year colleges and universities and community colleges that only offer associate's degrees or certificates. But the state's budget crisis and the resulting deep cuts in education funding are driving at least one state lawmaker to reconsider this division. Assemblyman Marty Block of San Diego, the article says, raised the issue at a hearing earlier this month on California's higher education master plan. He is considering introducing a bill in the legislature enabling the state's community colleges to offer 4-year degrees.

Block said that budget cuts forced San Diego State University to deny admission to many deserving California residents. "We have a lot of well-respected community colleges down in San Diego, and they think they could do a fine job offering those next two years to students, at least in certain disciplines."

Florida community colleges already offer bachelor's degrees in science education and public safety -- the latter including forensic-science courses. Kenneth Walker, president of Edison State College in Fort Myers, Florida, which offers both 2-year and 4-year degrees, told the newspaper that bachelor's degrees at his institution cost a little more than its 2-year programs but are still much less expensive than universities.

Even if Block's proposal passes, it will probably take a while before the state's community colleges could start offering bachelor's degrees. The Contra Costa Times notes that California's 110-campus system of community colleges is already overflowing with its current 3,000,000 students. The newspaper also says it would be difficult to keep costs of a 4-year degree close to the current $26 per credit hour now charged for community college students.

Hat tip: Washington Monthly

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