Get your B.A. at community college

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Ilustration by: Tomas Medina / Contributor

Ilustration by: Tomas Medina / Contributor

College is difficult. That is a fact. From classes to parking permits, every small detail is a pest to think about but in order to receive that coveted bachelor’s degree. This is what we have to endure, right?

Not necessarily. Very soon there might not be a need to transfer to a four-year institution. What if you could collect a bachelor’s degree in the same place as your associate’s? It seems too far fetch but it’s a possibility that could benefit many students.

Right now the California community college system is proposing that two-year institutions should be able to grant baccalaureate degrees after passing necessary accreditation. The proposal was made based on an increased need for workforce training. Also it aides students who live in rural areas and don’t have access to universities.

We wouldn’t be the first state to apply this new legislation either. More than 21 states across the country have followed this growing trend like Michigan, who recently allowed their junior colleges to give baccalaureate degrees in certain fields such as culinary arts and maritime technology. The American Associations of State Colleges and Universities research found 465 bachelor’s programs were available at community colleges around the country.

Critics argue that the hierarchy that binds community colleges and universities shouldn’t be messed with. Christine Mallon, assistant vice chancellor for academic programs and faculty development at CSU and a member of the 16-member panel that is weighing out the proposal said in an Los Angeles Times article that, “Cal State, UC and community colleges work together on a regular basis and we’d like to continue that. We should continue making use of the infrastructure, faculty and resources and continue finishing degrees started in community colleges.”

Though the traditional hierarchy has been in place since the 1960’s Master Plan for Higher Education, recent budget cuts to CSUs have made it extremely difficult for many students to enroll in classes.

Times are changing and universities, the way they currently are, aren’t meeting student needs. Bottleneck courses are becoming rampant and students require other options that correlate with their heavy work schedules. If students had the option of taking an upper-division class at a community college and at a lower price, they would flock to them.

When I was getting ready to transfer from Los Angeles Valley College to CSUN I remember the hassle I went through just to enroll. Meeting with unknown counselors and familiarizing myself with a new campus, all that seemed so annoying and overwhelming. If I could receive my bachelor’s degree in the same place I’ve been studying for the past two years, the hassle of adapting to an unknown school is gone. I would already be familiar with the administration, the counselors, and I’d save gas money.

But others argue that this new idea could hurt admission rates to CSUs and UCs, creating competition when it comes to enrollment. Basically, four-year institutions are worried about losing hefty tuition fees that come out of the students’ pockets or federal and state money.

One issue that still lingers in the back of critics’ minds is whether community college’s tuitions will increase once they decide to award bachelor’s degrees.

The possible loss of tuition money is why some universities slam this idea, but the possibly lower tuition is what makes it appealing to students. Unfortunately, the 16 member panel that’s comprised of faculty, teachers, administrators, students and representatives from UC and CSU systems, haven’t supplied a formal report to the community colleges Chancellor Brice Harris, so the immediate cost of these new classes are still up in the air.

But right now a full-time enrollment at CSUN is $3,260 a semester, and that doesn’t include books, food or transportation. Compare that to Los Angeles Valley College’s $46 a unit, it’s a major difference but don’t start jumping for joy yet. This is merely for lower-division classes. It is still uncertain whether community college classes that go toward your bachelor’s degree will be closer to the cost of classes at a four-year institution.

For St. Petersburg College in Florida their upper-division classes start at $118.70 per credit, that’s about $1, 424 for 12 units, which is undoubtedly cheaper than most four-year institutions.

Also, don’t assume that community colleges are going to grant bachelor’s degrees in all fields. Most likely it will follow the path that Michigan and Florida have paved and only grant higher degrees in fields like nursing, computer technology and education.

Nursing is a field that has boomed over the past few years. With so many students failing to register because of a lack of courses, community colleges can pick up the heavy load and allow those future nurses to attend.

If anyone says that this can’t be done, then they should talk with St. Petersburg College who was the first community college in Florida to offer bachelor’s degrees. It currently offers 24 baccalaureate programs and over 1,000 students graduate with bachelor degrees a year, mostly in education.

Just because a community college offers a four-year degree doesn’t mean they’re sacrificing a student’s right to an intelligent professor. St. Petersburg College were careful in hiring their faculty, making sure professors weren’t fixated on researching or publishing their work. There are plenty of professors in two-year institutions who are at or above the intellectual level as those working in universities, with many that work in both places.

Let’s face it, universities are only getting pricier. Tuition keeps increasing every semester and classes keep getting cut down.This change will require some heavy collaborating with CSUs, UCs and community colleges but it’s a change that has to be done in order to accommodate the larger number of students in California.

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  • Jessie

    I think that allowing community colleges to offer baccalaureate programs is definitely a good idea when thinking about students who want to work in certain fields. But it seems to me that if we go this way, students who intend on going to post-grad education will be getting the short end of the stick.

    Students who decide to attend a four-year institution rather than get their bachelor degree from a community college will end up paying a lot more than other students for their undergrad education. Because of the stigma community colleges have, even if their education is better than a four-year institution, students will have to weigh cost vs. the name of school they attended if they want to apply to graduate or PhD programs.

    Allowing community colleges to offer baccalaureate programs seems like a good way to go, but there are still some bugs that would need to be worked out.