A proposal that would enable community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees in selected majors with high workforce demands has been endorsed by the leaders of the nine community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties.
Twenty-two other states already offer baccalaureate degrees at their community colleges, and the proposal is gaining momentum in California as a study group of representatives from higher education prepares to issue its final report.
On December 2, the chief executive officers of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) voted unanimously to endorse the concept. SDICCCA members include all of the region’s community colleges and community college districts.
“Our local community colleges excel at preparing students to enter the workforce in career technical fields such as nursing and allied health,” said Dr. Melinda Nish, president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association and superintendent/president of Southwestern College. “This proposal would enable community colleges to grant four-year degrees in similar fields. It’s time for California to join this national movement and address our local workforce and student needs.”
SDICCCA members are writing individual letters of endorsement to California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris, who convened the Baccalaureate Degree Study Group this year. The study group’s final report – expected later this month – will then be considered by Harris and the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.
The proposal would require state legislation before it can take effect. State Senator Marty Block has already said he plans to introduce new legislation early in 2014, and State Senator Joel Anderson has indicated he would co-author the bill.
San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll serves on the study group and is an outspoken advocate for the proposal. She believes that while previous legislative efforts in California have fallen short, a more narrowly focused bill can be successful.
“What this is about is not turning community colleges into four-year baccalaureate degree-granting institutions but to allow them to keep their existing mission, and add to the selected programs in areas where there are shortages and also a lack of capacity at the university level,” said Carroll.
SDICCCA is comprised of the nine community colleges serving students in the six college districts of San Diego and Imperial Counties: Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, Imperial Community College District, MiraCosta Community College District, Palomar Community College District, San Diego Community College District, and Southwestern Community College District.