With Bachelor Degrees Proving Beneficial, Demand for Expanding Availability Rises
Bachelor Degree
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Bachelor’s degrees offered by community colleges have proven to be mutually beneficial. California should consider expanding their availability.

Sixty-four years ago, California implemented a master plan for higher education, which outlined operational guidelines for the state’s three college systems. Under this plan:

– The University of California would serve as the primary research institution, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees up to doctorates in various fields, including medicine and law.

– The California State University system, later named as such, would provide undergraduate degrees with a focus on professions like education and engineering, as well as master’s degrees in its respective subjects.

– The community college system, comprised of locally managed colleges, would offer two-year degrees, vocational instruction, and lower-division classes designed to prepare students for transfer into bachelor degree programs at UC and state universities.

Over time, as California’s demographic and economic landscapes evolved, the rigid delineations of academic jurisdiction became convoluted and frustrating labyrinths for students. Conflicts arose over which classes were necessary for transfers, rivalries emerged among the three systems for funding and enrollment, and the costs of higher education soared.

The state university system sought authorization to grant doctorates in certain fields, challenging UC’s historical monopoly on those degrees. Similarly, state universities opposed attempts by community colleges to introduce four-year baccalaureate programs in fields typically avoided by CSU schools.

A breakthrough on the latter issue occurred nine years ago when the Legislature authorized a limited pilot program, allowing 15 community colleges to offer baccalaureates in select fields. Three years ago, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation making the pilot program permanent and expanding baccalaureate authorization to an additional 30 colleges in fields that do not overlap with state university offerings.

The CSU system faced significant backlash over the expansion, despite concurrently seeking to broaden its ability to grant doctorates, thus encroaching further onto UC’s domain.

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