By Jason Song
January 21, 2015

Fifteen California community colleges should be able to offer four-year degrees starting as soon as next year, state officials announced Tuesday.

Officials with California’s community college system gave initial approval to the campuses after 36 schools and districts said they would apply for a chance to offer baccalaureate degrees. Nearly 20 other states allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

California community college officials will give final approval to the two-year schools in the spring. The campuses cannot teach four-year programs that already are being offered at other nearby state schools, and they also cannot provide four-year nursing degrees.

The new degree programs will be regularly evaluated by state officials and are scheduled to end by July 2023, although lawmakers could renew the program.

Proponents of the degrees say the programs could provide the state with thousands of workers in technical fields at a lower price. A four-year degree at a community college would cost about $10,000 in tuition, roughly half the cost of attending a Cal State campus, according to estimates.

State Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) wrote the legislation creating the pilot program. In addition, a coalition of community college administrators and supporters “worked very hard to support the bill,” said Constance Carroll, the chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “To see the fruits of our labor with the 15 approved programs was the icing on the cake.”

San Diego Mesa College will offer a health information management program to train students to work with electronic health records and technology issues at hospitals.

“This is a jobs bill more than it is anything else,” Carroll said.

Officials at Cypress College in north Orange County said they hoped to expand their mortuary science program by the spring of 2017. The school, which is among the fifteen selected, has the only such program south of Sacramento. Campus officials said the closest public university that offers a bachelor’s degree in mortuary science is located in Oklahoma.

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