Bill allows CCs to offer BA degrees

Students push to include LMC

Robert Pierce, rpierce@lmcexperience.com

Enrollment at a community college is traditionally seen as stepping stone toward a degree from a four-year college.

However, California Senate Bill 850, passed in the fall of 2014, aimed to eliminate the middleman by allowing 15 pilot community colleges, including Foothill College and Skyline College, to offer Bachelor’s degree programs for a handful of majors, such as dental hygiene and respiratory care.

Several big names within the various governing bodies of the California Community College District, such as Chancellor Constance Carroll of the San Diego Community College District, have been pushing for the program created by SB 850 to expand beyond the 15 pilot campuses, and two local students – Joseph Cariaso and Dion Powell are pushing for LMC to be a part of that expanded roster after studying the inner workings of SB 850.

“I came upon this when I did some research on community colleges offering Bachelor’s degrees,” Cariaso reflected. “I thought it would be really interesting for LMC to do the same thing, help get students into the workforce.” 

There’s a huge demand of four-year degrees but not everyone has the money to go a traditional four year. ”

— Joseph Carioso

“Joseph informed me about it,” Powell explained. “I looked into it, did some more research about it, and I was genuinely surprised about this development… What inspired me was Constance Carroll and her associates, students who fought hard in having their Community College District start handing out Bachelor’s degrees.”

After doing research throughout the 2016 academic year, the duo began lobbying the LMC Academic Senate in the 2017 spring semester to apply for a Bachelor’s degree program. The two are now collaborating directly with the Academic Senate, Cariaso himself being a former Los Medanos College Associated Students Senator, to attempt to increase their chances of being approved for such a program, which could benefit the student population immensely.

“There’s a huge demand of four-year, degrees but not everyone has the money to go a traditional four year,” Cariaso stated, showing his reasoning for trying to bring a Bachelor’s program to LMC. “Should LMC get selected as one of the colleges to be participating in this program, we could be seeing an increase in graduation rates.”

“If we do get the approval of offering Bachelor’s degrees, the first [one offered would be a] Liberal Arts BA pilot program,” Powell noted. The specific major was chosen for its traditional prestige and for its practicality as a general, non-specific degree that helps with several career paths.

“With Liberal Arts, it’s more flexible for students,” Powell explained. “If they haven’t really figured out what they want to pursue in their careers after junior college, with the Liberal Arts program, they will be able to figure out what they want to do.”

If LMC does get the authorization to offer a BA in Liberal Arts, students would be able to join the program by applying to it after receiving their Associate’s degrees, much like a conventional transfer. Upper division classes needed for a Bachelor’s degree would cost $83 a unit, as instructed by California legislature. Students would be able to apply to the Bachelor’s program only after obtaining their AA, like a conventional transfer program.

If everything goes as planned, Cariaso predicts that this hypothetical program could be a reality by the end of the 2019 academic year.

“LMC needs to do job interviews with instructors, see who can fill those upper division roles,” Cariaso explained.

That would be sometime down the line, however. The immediate next move for the two is working together with the Academic Senate on an effort to get data from LMC students in order to gauge student interest in a Bachelor’s degree program.

Many other community colleges beyond LMC want in on the Bachelor’s programs, especially since SB 769, a bill that would eliminate the ‘sunset date’ of 2023 and allow the 15 pilot colleges to operate their Bachelor’s programs indefinitely and self-evaluate them instead of undergoing government evaluation, is currently “going back and forth between different assemblies” according to Powell and Cariaso. From their perspective, having actual numerical data as a way to prove that a Bachelor’s degree program would benefit their campus would help their case in asking to be approved for one.

“If it is passed, we will be facing more competition from the other community colleges trying to get in as well,” Cariaso explained. “So what we are trying, is that we are presenting data on LMC students who are willing to… [get] a Bachelor’s degree from here.”

They speculate the survey will be available on the LMC website for students to take “some time in October”, as they are currently polishing it and submitting it to the Academic Senate for review.

Stay tuned to the Experience and to the LMC website for details if you are interested in taking the survey – and studying for a Bachelor’s here at LMC.