In California, baccalaureate pilot closer to becoming permanent

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California lawmakers have passed a bill to expand and make permanent a program that allows a select group of community colleges to offer baccalaureates in specific programs. The measure now heads to the governor.

Currently, 15 community colleges in the state offer bachelor’s degrees in workforce fields with high demand and unmet needs. However, the pilot program is set to expire in 2026. Assembly Bill 927 would make the program permanent and allow up to 30 community colleges to offer similar bachelor’s degree programs.

“Community colleges are the founding pillars of higher education; offering critical baccalaureate degree programs will create greater accessibility to higher education,” said Assemblymember Jose Medina, a sponsor of the bill who heads the Assembly’s higher education committee. “The baccalaureate degree program will play a pivotal role in building back our State’s economy.”

Related article: Baccalaureates at community colleges are making a difference

Constance Carroll, who retired this summer as chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, was a strong advocate for the program and for making it permanent. She said it is urgently needed to address the state’s workforce demands.

“Twenty-five states in the nation authorize their community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in workforce fields recognizing that many employers and fields now require baccalaureate-level education rather than associate degrees,” she said in a release. “This legislation addresses that in a manner that provides for local access, high quality, and affordability, without duplicating programs at public universities. We hope that the governor will sign it to benefit our local communities and students.” 

AB 927 would require the California Community Colleges chancellor to consult with and seek feedback from the California State University and University of California systems on proposed baccalaureates. It also would require individual districts seeking approval to provide evidence of unmet workforce needs.

The current pilot program was established in 2014. It was set to expire in 2023, but lawmakers extended it until July 2026.

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