California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Fifteen California community colleges will be allowed to offer bachelor’s degrees in vocational fields. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday to create the pilot program, which will launch on Jan. 1, 2015.

California joins 21 other states that authorize two-year colleges to offer four-year degrees.

In recent years, advocates have argued that growing industry demand for more educated workers in fields such as dental hygiene and automotive technology could be met by expanding existing programs at community colleges.

“This is landmark legislation that is a game changer for California’s higher education system and our workforce preparedness,” state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who authored the bill, said in a statement. “SB 850 boosts the focus of our community colleges on job training and increasing the accessibility and affordability of our state’s higher education system.”

Community college baccalaureates will not compete with degrees offered at nearby state universities.

Many entry-level jobs now require a bachelor’s degree, said San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance M. Carroll.  Colleges are looking at programs in health information science and radiologic technology, she said.

Students will pay an additional $84 per unit fee for upper-division coursework, considerably less than the fees charged to California State University students.

Texas could expand 4-year degree options

More Texas community colleges could be allowed to offer four-year degrees starting in 2015, reports the Texas Tribune.

South Texas CollegeMidland College and Brazosport College have been granting bachelor’s degrees since 2003, but other colleges have been denied.

Opening the door for new bachelor’s degrees in nursing and applied sciences at community colleges is listed as a priority recommendation for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

In early August, Raymund Paredes, the state’s higher education commissioner, who had expressed skepticism about such programs in the past, notified legislators that he planned to recommend that such offerings be allowed at more institutions.

“I made my recommendation on the basis of trying to create another pathway for poor, nontraditional students in Texas to achieve a baccalaureate degree,” he said.

A recent RAND study concluded that allowing more community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees could help meet workforce needs.

“Interested community colleges will have to demonstrate a work force need for their desired degree program, as well as show that the program was not duplicating any others in the region and that the possibility of collaborating with local universities had been exhausted, among other criteria,” reports the Tribune.

California OKs 4-year degrees at 2-year colleges

Nursing students, from left, Caroline Pantaleon, Yang Liu, Melody Saechao and Christine Crivello practice inserting an IV in Saul Jones’ nursing

Nursing students, from left, Caroline Pantaleon, Yang Liu, Melody Saechao and Christine Crivello practice inserting an IV in Saul Jones’ nursing skills lab class at Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif. The college could begin offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing.  (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group) ( Kristopher Skinner )

As early as next year, some California community colleges  will start offering four-year degrees if the governor signs a bill that cleared the state Legislature Thursday.

Colleges will be allowed to offer one bachelor’s degree program per campus, if the degree isn’t available at a nearby state university, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Proponents of SB 850 — introduced by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego — argued that bachelor’s degrees in technical fields are in great demand and noted that 21 other states allow their community colleges to offer such programs.

“In today’s economy, many businesses require their employees to possess a four-year degree or higher skill sets than are offered through associate degree programs, even in fields such as dental hygiene or automotive technology where a two-year degree would have been sufficient in the past,” Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris said in a news release. “I applaud the Legislature for addressing California’s urgent workforce needs.”

Transfer ed is workforce prep too

Community colleges’ workforce training mission is getting lots of attention since the Great Recession, writes Matt Reed, the Community College Dean. But educating students for transfer and an eventual bachelor’s degree is workforce development too, he argues.

. . . I’m happy to support the development of well-designed, stackable programs that meet job-seekers’ needs quickly.  We’ve even developed programs with multiple on- and off-ramps, so people who need to can stop out to make money for a while, and return when they’re able, without losing credits.  It doesn’t fit cleanly into most “performance metrics,” but it’s what many students need.

But community colleges also are “the most accessible on-ramp” for the journey to a bachelor’s degree, which is required by many higher-level jobs, writes Reed.

It takes time to see the payoff and feeder colleges rarely get any credit, he writes. “The student who graduates with a bachelor’s in engineering and makes a good salary is attributed to the university; for the community college at which she started, she doesn’t count.”

Illinois: CCs hope to add 4-year degrees

Illinois community college leaders tried to add four-year degrees eight years ago, reports The Southern. Now they’re trying again, arguing that offering four-year degrees at two-year colleges will enhance access and affordability.

Robert L. Breuder, president of College of DuPage, is leading the campaign.

“We spend time, money and effort recruiting and retaining students and then we ignore how they can best contribute to their local community’s economy and quality of life,” Breuder wrote in a March 26 letter published by the Chicago Tribune.

“We shouldn’t lose them because we couldn’t offer the baccalaureate degree in a field that no public university cares to offer despite a documented need within the districts the community colleges serve.”

Nursing, construction management, electronics and healthcare administration would be possibilities at John A. Logan College, says President Mike Dreith said. But he doesn’t want to endanger the college’s “extremely sensitive” relationship with nearby Southern Illinois University, which strongly opposed a baccalaureate option at community colleges eight years ago.

It’s time to let community colleges offer four-year degrees in technical fields, writes Jim Nowlan, a retired senior fellow with the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, in the News-Gazette.

A full-time community college student pays about $3,500 a year in tuition and usually lives at home, he notes. A state university student pays  $10,000 to $14,000 — before room and board fees.

College of DuPage enrolls 28,000 students — more than any campus in the state other than the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Students take courses in 90 certificate programs and 59 associate degree occupations.

Breuder wants to take advantage of COD’s strong position to offer low-cost, four-year degrees in fields like information technology, public safety management, advanced manufacturing, auto technology management and, especially, nursing.

Twenty-two states have approved four-year degrees at community colleges, writes Nowlan. Illinois should too.

New name, new identity

Edison State College isn’t just changing its name to Florida SouthWestern State College, reports the News-Press. It’s changing its identity. Once a community college, the new Florida SouthWestern will offer 10 baccalaureate degrees and on-campus housing.

Admissions staff are recruiting out-of-state students and bolstering scholarship programs to attract a brighter student body. Intercollegiate athletics will resurface in 2015.

The next addition will be a director of international education, which will coordinate study abroad, faculty and student exchanges, sister college agreements and internship opportunities. Edison State also has contracted with a consulting firm to help develop an office that will coordinate research efforts and grants.

“Is this us? Is this who we are?” trustee Brian Chapman asked rhetorically.

Florida’s community colleges have become “state colleges” as they added four-year programs. Under pressure from the state’s universities, legislators approved  a moratorium on new four-year degrees at state colleges.

That will delay Edison State’s plans to add a technical communication and emerging media major.

“We basically had to lay our degree on the altar,” said Edison President Jeff Allbritten.

Tami Cullens, a trustee at South Florida State College, attended Tuesday’s meeting to encourage Edison leaders to push legislators for more funding. She noted public universities saw substantial funding increases for 2014-15, but state colleges will collect minimally more money for operations.

“We’ve got to stop being the stepchild,” said Cullens, who chairs the Association of Florida Colleges.

The name change became official on July 1. The college has picked a new logo and colors, purple and aqua.

What’s in a name?

Henry Ford Community College is rebranding itself as Henry Ford College. The 75-year-old college in Dearborn, Michigan hopes to start offering a four-year degree in culinary arts.

Almost 40 colleges have dropped “community” from their names in the past decade,reports the Wall Street Journal.

“We’re seeing more and more community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees, which is the associated phenomenon,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow with the left-leaning Century Foundation. “Shedding the word ‘community’ is an important step toward attracting a broader cross-section of students.”

Henry Ford College has launched a marketing campaign with a new vision statement—”First Choice. Best Choice.”

. . . the school faces big challenges. Its graduation rate within three years for first-time, full-time students typically hovers in the single digits, compared with around 20% nationally for public two-year institutions. A school spokesman said Henry Ford is working to improve its graduation rate as well as its transfer rate—the rate at which students jump over to four-year institutions, which was 39% in 2012, according to federal data.

This fall, three community colleges in Seattle will drop “community” from their names.

In Florida, where community colleges now offer workforce-related bachelor’s degrees, most have switched to “college” or “state college.”

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.