What’s the difference between a community college and a state university? It’s getting smaller and smaller, as least when it comes to degree-granting. Community colleges around the country are morphing into baccalaureate factories, and California is the latest to allow some of its colleges to go down that route. The LA Times reports:
36 campuses and districts that have said they plan to apply for an opportunity to offer four-year degrees. It would be the first time community colleges in California would be eligible to offer more than associate’s degrees.Schools that are selected could provide thousands of workers to the state in areas that need more employees, including the healthcare and automotive industries.Students also would be given a chance to get a higher degree while paying lower, community college fees. 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. Backers say it has the potential to be a major advance for California higher education, offering more class opportunities at lower costs.
A $10,000 degree is a pretty good deal, and it sounds like these programs are appropriately focused on career development. That’s what America’s higher education system definitely needs more of: cheaper ways to prepare students for jobs that actually exist.We’ve been watching this trend for a while, and while it seems promising on the whole, there’s reason for caution. It’s possible that boosting community college degrees to the B.A. level is a sign of credentialism run amok, as the bachelor’s degree becomes a requirement for more and more jobs.We will say this, however: Given California’s well publicized fights over UC tuition hikes (and well publicized economic problems in general), it’s nice to see a much needed resource get cheaper rather than more expensive in the sunshine state.