Skyline hopes to pilot new 4-year degree

Rae De LaRosa (center) works in the respiratory therapy lab after class. The campus is exploring the idea of offering a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy.

Justin Chadwick Yuen/The Skyline View

Rae De LaRosa (center) works in the respiratory therapy lab after class. The campus is exploring the idea of offering a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy.

Community colleges statewide have recently been granted the opportunity to experiment with offering upper-division coursework and four-year degrees

Senate Bill 850, which overrides previous legislature that required community colleges in the state to only offer lower division coursework, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Sept. 29, making California one of more than 20 states in the nation to offer four-year degrees at its community colleges.

The pilot program will allow 15 two-year colleges in the state to offer one experimental bachelor’s degree each in high-demand fields that are not currently available in the university system. Enrollment in the programs will begin no later than the 2017-2018 academic year. Fees for upper-division coursework will be an extra $84 per credit, but lower-division fees will remain the same.

“Thanks to the governor, Legislature, and college educators who supported this bill, like Chancellor Constance Carroll of San Diego, the country’s largest system of higher education joins the ranks of community colleges in other states that offer four-year degrees,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris said. “Employers in California seek candidates with advanced credentials and many struggle to fill positions in some of the fields that will be covered under the new program. This law will help us to meet California’s workforce needs, does not duplicate CSU or UC degree programs, and gives more Californians access to affordable higher education that can enable them to obtain well-paying jobs.”

More than 40 of the state’s community colleges have expressed interest in participating in the pilot program. All three SMCCD campuses have programs that they are hoping expand to offer four-year degrees such as; respiratory therapy at Skyline, radiologic technology at Cañada, and nursing at CSM are all possibilities that are being considered. However, only one school from the district can potentially participate in the pilot program.

Campuses will be selected by the chancellor’s office based on a number of factors, primarily how prepared they are to offer upper-division coursework, but the office also intends to choose the 15 participating campuses based on how evenly they will be disbursed geographically.

“I would be surprised if we weren’t picked,” Barbara Christensen, SMCCD spokeswoman said, noting that schools in the district have been at the forefront in efforts to provide four-year degrees.

Currently, Cañada offers four-year programs through its university center, but it is a partnership with universities. The district is currently still deciding on what program to offer from which campus, but Christensen is confident that one will be chosen to participate.

Update: this article headline has been changed to be better reflect the article and a photo has been added to the article. 3:03 p.m. 10/2/2014.