California Community Colleges approve 6 new bachelor’s degree programs

Fresno City College Dental Hygiene

Dental Hygiene program at Fresno College.

Credit: Fresno City College

Six additional bachelor’s degree programs have been approved across California’s community colleges, the state chancellor’s office for the college system announced. 

With the approvals, there are now 39 bachelor’s degree programs that are being offered or will soon be offered across the community college system. 

The latest programs to be approved include respiratory care at Antelope Valley College, paramedicine at College of the Siskiyous, dental hygiene at both Cypress College and Oxnard College, paralegal studies at Santa Ana College and respiratory care therapist at Victor Valley College.

 “Through the Baccalaureate Degree Program we are broadening the reach of higher education and skill development to a greater number of students by offering affordable and quality opportunities close to home,” Aisha Lowe, an executive vice chancellor for the college system, said in a statement.

There are now 32 different community colleges across the state with at least one bachelor’s degree program. A few colleges have multiple offerings, including Antelope Valley, Cypress and Santa Ana with their latest approvals.

The number of bachelor’s degrees being offered across the community colleges will likely continue to increase. In January, colleges submitted another 13 program applications that are currently under review. 

Under a 2021 state law, the community college system can approve up to 30 bachelor’s degrees annually, across two cycles each year. The degrees are all offered in high-demand career fields such as dental hygiene and automotive education. 

By offering those degrees at the community college level, students can earn a bachelor’s degree for a fraction of what it costs to get one at a four-year university. In some cases, the degrees are also more accessible, since there are some community colleges offering them in parts of the state where there isn’t a University of California or California State University campus.

To get approved, the programs must first go through intersegmental review, a process in which CSU and UC get to say whether or not they object to the degrees. Under state law, the programs can’t duplicate programs that are offered at UC or CSU.

That has been a point of contention, particularly with CSU, which has raised duplication concerns about several programs that community colleges have proposed, something that has delayed the approval process. Currently, 11 programs remain under intersegmental review.

Community college officials say they are working with CSU officials to establish a better process for resolving those disputes more quickly in the future.

Because the community colleges can’t create bachelor’s degree programs that are already available at CSU and UC, that has prevented them from offering degrees in some fields with worker shortages, such as nursing. Newly proposed legislation aims to change that: Senate Bill 895 would allow 15 community colleges to begin offering bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

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