Community college baccalaureate bill approved by California legislature
September 10, 2021 |
California lawmakers have approved historic legislation that would expand and make permanent the California community college bachelor’s degree pilot program. Assembly Bill 927 now heads to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk with the backing of educational leaders and dozens of businesses and trade organizations.
AB 927 seeks to eliminate the 2026 sunset date on existing baccalaureate degree programs at 15 California community colleges in workforce fields with high demand and unmet need, in addition to allowing for up to 30 community college baccalaureate degree programs statewide per year. The bill is sponsored by the Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Jose Medina (D-Riverside).
“Community colleges are the founding pillars of higher education; offering critical baccalaureate degree programs will create greater accessibility to higher education,” said Assemblymember Medina. “The baccalaureate degree program will play a pivotal role in building back our State’s economy.”
A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) identified the need for more than 1 million bachelor’s degree holders in California in the coming decade, especially in critical workforce fields. The PPIC found that, in order to keep up with the demand for a college-educated workforce, the state would need to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by 40%.
The bill mandates the California Community Colleges Chancellor to consult with and seek feedback from the California State University and University of California systems on proposed baccalaureate degrees and would require individual districts seeking approval to provide evidence of unmet workforce needs.
The baccalaureate degree pilot program was established when Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 signed Senate Bill 850, sponsored by then state Senator Marty Block. The bill allowed 15 colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in specific workforce fields. The program was set to end in 2023, but subsequent legislation from state Senator Jerry Hill extended the program’s sunset date to July 2026.
Constance M. Carroll, Ph.D., president and CEO of the California Community Colleges Baccalaureate Association, said the bill is urgently needed to address the state’s workforce demands. Carroll co-chairs statewide legislative efforts advocating for the baccalaureate program with Foothill-De Anza Community College District Chancellor Judy C. Miner, Ed.D. She said the fact that the bill moved through the Legislature without a single “no” vote is evidence that it enjoys strong bipartisan support.
“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,” said Carroll, who recently retired after serving 17 years as chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. “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.”
The California Legislative Analyst’s Office has found that more than half of students surveyed would not have pursued a bachelor’s degree if their community college program had not been offered. Approximately 60% of students enrolled in a community college baccalaureate program come from communities of color and disadvantaged backgrounds and are paying a little more than $10,000 — a fraction of what it would cost them at private institutions.
Business organizations that support the bill include: California Dental Hygienists’ Association, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Water Works Workforce Development Group, National Association of Social Workers, Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce, California Society for Respiratory Care, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce among others.
Supporters of the bill are encouraged to email letters of endorsement to Governor Newsom at email@example.com.