In 21 states, community colleges are adding bachelor’s degrees, reports Community College Week. Other states may follow the trend.
Florida has led the way with 22 community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing, elementary education, business management and other fields. All are built on associate degree programs and meet local workforce needs.
Florida State College at Jacksonville, which offers 12 baccalaureate degrees, is careful not to expand into low-demand fields, said Donald Green, executive vice-president for instruction and student services. “We want to identify high wage areas where people can make a decent living.”
Universities see the trend as “mission creep.” In Michigan, universities are fighting a proposal to let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in maritime technology, concrete technology, energy production, culinary studies and nursing.
Since 2004, a series of state and national reports has prodded Michigan to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees in high-need fields. The state has the sixth-highest tuition rate for a public four-year degree in the nation, according to the Michigan Community College Association.
“Michigan is at a critical point in its history,” says a MCCA report. “As the state transitions to a knowledge-based economy, increasing the educational attainment of the workforce is paramount. The community college baccalaureate degree would allow colleges to respond to workforce shortages in specific regions, and in specific corporations and industries.”
But the state’s public universities, led by the University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State, “complain the community colleges would be competing for pieces of a shrinking budget pie and that the community college baccalaureate would be of inferior quality,” reports Community College Week. A bill to enable community colleges to add four-year degrees is stalled in the legislature.