Illinois: Let us offer 4-year degrees

Illinois should join 22 other states in letting community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in technical and applied science fields, argues Robert L. Breuder, president of the College of DuPage in the Chicago suburbs.

The College of DuPage works with nearby universities to offer 3+1 and 2+2 baccalaureate opportunities, but students say they want to finish a four-year degree at one college.”Why are you making me leave?” students ask.”Why don’t you offer the rest of my degree?”

CCs add 4-year degrees, but face pushback

Twenty-three Florida community colleges now offer four-year degrees in high-demand vocational fields, but a bill in the Legislature would prevent colleges from adding bachelor’s degrees without legislative approval. Currently, the state education board authorizes new four-year degrees at two-year colleges.

With tuition two-thirds cheaper at a community college compared to a state university, the lawmakers behind the bill warn that it’s unfair competition. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton), said many community colleges are offering more than just specialized bachelor’s degrees, such as nursing and public safety, and are competing with state universities to offer more general degrees, like history, at less cost.

Gov. Rick Scott thinks competition will help students. He’s challenged community colleges to offer four-year degrees with a price tag of $10,000. Daytona State College will be the first with a $10,000 bachelor’s in education.

Students are enthusiastic about the four-year option, writes Jon Marcus for the Hechinger Report.  At Florida community colleges — now called state colleges — more than 30,000 students are pursuing bachelor’s degrees.

It’s cheaper and more convenient than attending a four-year university, especially for working parents and part-time students, who make up a large proportion of community college attendees.

The cost of a baccalaureate course at St. Petersburg College is $118.70 per credit hour, compared to $211.19 at the nearby University of South Florida. . . .

Universities are resisting the trend in many states. Community colleges typically are limited to degrees in vocational fields.

Colorado legislators approved letting community colleges offer four-year degrees only after satisfying Colorado State University and the University of Colorado — whose lobbying was blamed for killing a previous version of a proposal — that they would be limited to career and technical fields such as culinary arts and dental hygiene.

In Michigan, similar legislation was passed over the concerted, years-long opposition of that state’s public universities, which said letting community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees was mission creep, blurs the distinction between different branches of higher education and raises quality concerns. In the end, the community colleges were limited to baccalaureate programs in maritime studies, culinary arts, energy production and concrete technology.

California legislators have rejected four-year degrees at community college three times since 2009, but a new proposal has a good chance of success.

Seattle colleges will drop ‘community’

Three Seattle community colleges are dropping “community” from their names in the fall, reports the Seattle Times. The three will become known as Seattle Central College, South Seattle College and North Seattle College.

All three now offer a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree program for students who have completed a two-year technical degree.

The Seattle Community Colleges District board of trustees, which will become Seattle Colleges, approved the chance unanimously. “We believe this will inspire prospective students to reach higher than they thought possible,” said Chancellor Jill Wakefield.

Colorado OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Colorado community colleges will offer bachelor of applied science degrees in career and technical fields.Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation that makes Colorado the 22nd state to expand community colleges’ role.

Applied science includes fields such as dental hygiene, culinary arts, respiratory therapy and water quality management.

Community colleges will not be allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees that compete with state universities in their area.

California eyes 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

California may let community colleges offer low-cost bachelor’s degrees, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

It would “save us money in the long run,” said State Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who’s introduced a bill to authorize one bachelor’s program per campus for a few college districts.

Xin Xie listens to clinical instructor Evelyn Joyce Bettencourt, right, in the dental hygiene program at Foothill College

Student Xin Xie listens to clinical instructor Evelyn Joyce Bettencourt, right, in the dental hygiene program at Foothill College as she works on student partner, Ashley Mork. (Gary Reyes, Bay Area News Group)

It’s getting harder for graduates to find jobs in fields such as nursing and respiratory therapy with just an associate degree, but it’s also harder to transfer into state university programs.

Ruby Guzman waited three years to get into the Contra Costa College nursing program, and now, about to earn an associate degree, she’s on the wait list at Cal State East Bay. ”It just feels like roadblock after roadblock,” Guzman said.

Community colleges in 21 states offer four-year degree programs. “I’d just like to see California catch up with the rest of the nation,” said Linda Thor, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

Both critics and advocates worry the state won’t adequately fund the programs, notes the Mercury News. “That’s always the million-dollar question, like are you going to pay for it?” said Aaron Bielenberg, president of the college system’s student senate.

Now that the state budget outlook has improved, momentum is building, said Barry Russell, president of Las Positas College in Livermore. ”I think it’s an inevitable move that needs to be made,” said Russell.

Each year, De Anza College‘s automotive technology program graduates about 140 students. With a certificate or associate degree, they will get good jobs as technicians, but their career options are limited, said Randy Bryant, the department head.

Moving up at a dealership or opening their own shop now requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, but Bryant says his students often fear transferring to a four-year business program — and he wants them to be able to “finish what they start here.”

Bryant is designing a four-year automotive management degree, which combines technical skills with “courses in ethics, entrepreneurship, management, sales and marketing, and inventory control.”

If the bill passes, there will be pressure to offer more than one four-year degree at each campus. At Foothill College, the dental hygiene and the respiratory therapy programs already want to offer bachelor’s degrees.

More 2-year colleges add 4-year degrees

More community colleges are offering bachelor’s degrees in career fields, reports Community College Daily.

South Seattle Community College (SSCC) added a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, which lets graduates seek a supervisory job in the hotel or restaurant industry.

North Dakota’s universities don’t offer a bachelor’s degree in energy management, so Bismarck State College (BSC) started a program to meet industry demand.

Courses are entirely online and are in eight-week blocks rather than the traditional 16 weeks. Only about 10 percent of the 250 students in the program are in North Dakota; the rest are all over the country. Most are adults already working in the field, although there are some traditional students who’ve just completed an associate degree.

California community colleges hope to offer four-year degrees in vocational majors.

The chief executive officers of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) this week voted unanimously to endorse the concept. SDICCCA comprises the nine community colleges 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.

“Our local community colleges excel at preparing students to enter the workforce in career technical fields such as nursing and allied health, ”Melinda Nish, SDICCCA president and superintendent/president of Southwestern College, said in a statement. “It’s time for California to join this national movement and address our local workforce and student needs.”

Colorado community colleges are trying again to add four-year degrees, despite a defeat in the legislature last year, reports the Denver Post. Possible majors included dental hygiene and mortuary science.

Higher ed pays — for technical grads

Higher Education Pays: But a Lot More for Some Graduates Than for Others concludes a Lumina-funded report by Dr. Mark Schneider, the president of College Measures. “What you study matters more than where you study,” says Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  Learning technical and occupational skills pays off, even for graduates of low-prestige colleges and universities. A music, photography or creative writing graduate from a prestige university will struggle.

Schneider analyzed first-year earnings of graduates of two-year and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

Some short-term credentials, including occupational associate’s degrees and certificates, are worth as much or more than bachelor’s degrees, the study found. For example, Texans with technical associate’s degrees averaged more than $11,000 more than four-year graduates in their first year in the workforce.

Certificates that require one or two years of study may raise earnings as much as an associate degree, especially a transfer-oriented degree.

In Texas, certificate holders earned almost $15,000 more on average than graduates with academic associate’s degrees, but about $15,000 less than graduates with technical associate’s degrees.

Not surprisingly engineering degrees have the biggest payoff, followed by nursing and other health-related fields. What is a surprise is the weak demand for biology and chemistry graduates. ”The S in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is oversold,” the report found.

Despite the clamoring for more students to focus on STEM, the labor market shows less demand for science skills. Employers are paying more, often far more, for graduates with degrees in technology, engineering and math. There is no evidence that Biology or Chemistry majors earn a premium wage, compared with engineers, computer/information science or math majors. The labor market returns for science are similar to those of the liberal arts, like English Language and Literature.

Women now make up a majority of biology graduates and about half of chemistry majors.

“Prospective students need sound information about where their educational choices are likely to lead” before they go into debt, the report concludes.

Fewer 4-year grads enroll at 2-year colleges

Slightly fewer four-year graduates in 2010 enrolled in a community college within two years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The number dropped from 6.5 percent for 2009 graduates to 6.1 percent, perhaps because of improving economic conditions.

More than 14 percent of biology and biomedical graduates enrolled in community colleges, probably to study for a nursing degree.

“There was a lot of speculation during the Great Recession about humanities majors, who couldn’t find jobs with their bachelors’ degrees, flocking to community colleges to learn computer networking,” stated Dr. Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of the Research Center. “Our student-level data shows that the reality was a slight uptick in some fields, layered on top of longer-term trends. As we pull out of the recession, the numbers are starting to trend back down.”

One in four community college students has earned a postsecondary credential already, says Christopher Mullin, program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

CC online courses help 4-year students

Four-year college students are using online community college courses to finish their degrees, according to U.S. News.

In 2005, Stanley Hicks enrolled at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis to study electrical engineering while keeping his day job. After eight years, he’s finishing his four-year degree though online courses at Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College. ”At IUPUI some classes, with fees, are 1,200 bucks,” says Hicks. “At Ivy Tech, the same class is $400.”

Online courses make it easier to juggle work and school, he says.

Hicks, who will end up taking six courses at Ivy Tech before he graduates, says his classes at the two institutions were more or less the same in terms of quality. For financially stressed students, he says taking online community college courses is a great option.

“There seems to be no ‘hidden’ fees at Ivy Tech,” says Hicks. “I also like the smaller class sizes and you seem to get better one-on-one assistance from the professors if needed.”

The number of four-year students taking online courses doubled in the last year at Ivy Tech.

Arizona’s Glendale Community College also is seeing more online students pursuing bachelor’s degrees, says Tressa Jumps, the school’s director of marketing.

  Jumps says many of the guest students at Glendale are taking courses covering subjects they have struggled with in the past or are taking a challenging course over the summer so they can devote more time to it. Taking an online community college course gives them the chance to be in a smaller class, and in the case of Glendale, benefit from free tutoring, she says.

However, students need to make sure that credits earned online through community colleges will be accepted by their four-year institution.

Colorado universities fight 4-year CC degrees

Colorado university leaders are fighting a bill that would let community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational fields,  reports the Boulder Daily Camera. In a letter to the General Assembly, seven state university presidents argued the proposal would divert scarce state funding, cause overlaps in missions and produce a degree with low value in the workforce.

Nancy McCallin, president of the Colorado Community College System, said there’s demand for four-year degrees in areas such as culinary arts and dental hygienists.  At Front Range Community College, she envisions offering a bachelor’s degree in “geographic information systems,” technical training required to build GPS systems.

Two-thirds of the state’s 163,000 community college students work to put themselves through college, McCallin said. Many can’t afford to uproot their families or leave the farms they work on in rural Colorado to transfer to a four-year institution. Offering four-year degrees, she said, would extend educational opportunities to those types of students — not draw students away from other colleges.

The bill would let community colleges offer up to 10 degree programs only in technical and career programs.  State officials would decide if a proposal overlaps with programs already offered at four-year colleges.

Colorado University has been working with community colleges to streamline the transfer process in 14 degree tracks, the Daily Camera notes. Community college students who earn 30 credit hours and at least a 2.7 grade-point average are guaranteed admission as transfers.

CU Regent Stephen Ludwig, who attended two community colleges before transferring to CU’s Colorado Springs campus, said state universities could use technology to enable students with associate degrees to earn a bachelor’s degree without relocating.