15 California Community Colleges Poised to Offer 4-Year Bachelor's Degrees

The chancellor of California's vast community college system announced 15 schools, including two in San Diego, that he wants to participate in a pilot program that allows the state's 2-year schools to offer baccalaureates for the first time.

The colleges presented by Chancellor Brice Harris to the system's Board of Governors on Tuesday came from 36 applicants and are located throughout the state. 

In San Diego County, Oceanside's MiraCosta College plans to offer a bio-manufacturing degree by 2017, which would include biotherapeutics, diagnostics, supplies and industrial products. Mesa College is set to provide a 4-year health information management de

Other schools range from Crafton Hills College near San Bernardino to Feather River College in Quincy and Shasta College near Redding.

Until now, the state's 112 community colleges have offered only 2-year degrees. But a bill authored by Democratic State Sen. Marty Block and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year established a seven-year pilot program that allows a maximum of 15 college districts to offer a single 4-year degree each in subjects not currently offered by the University of California or California State University systems.

Under the legislation, participating students would pay an additional $84 per unit for their upper-division courses. The regular per-unit fee for community college classes is $46 per unit.

Emergency services, dental hygiene, automotive technology, respiratory care and mortuary science are some of the degrees the participating community colleges plan to offer.

Nineteen other states have community colleges that offer bachelor's degrees, according to the Community College Baccalaureate Association.

California's move comes as its higher education institutions are recovering from several years of deep budget cuts that limited enrollment and course offerings, making it harder for students to complete their studies.

Block said the program will help more students prepare for jobs without having to take out loans and give employers a more qualified workforce to draw from.

The Board of Governor's is being asked to give initial approval to the 15 schools Harris recommended. The selected programs will then undergo further review before a final vote scheduled for March.

NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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