Oroville Mercury-Register

State expanding community college degree programs

- By Emma Gallegos EdSource

The community college baccalaure­ate program is on the precipice of expanding in California.

Program proponents say the more advanced bachelor’s degree offerings by colleges that typically offer associate degrees are key to training California’s workforce and expanding degrees among the underserve­d students.

Currently, 15 of the state’s 116 community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees in fields such as industrial automation, dental hygiene and bio-manufactur­ing through a pilot program launched in 2014.

That program became permanent through Assembly Bill 927, a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October. It also allows the state’s community college system to expand by 30 new bachelor’s degree programs annually.

California is one of 23 states in the nation that offers community college baccalaure­ate degrees, according to a 2020 report by Community College Research Initiative­s at the University of Washington.

Both the pilot and expanded programs require colleges to demonstrat­e that the degree offered satisfies an unmet industry need and that the program is not already offered by local universiti­es.

Bakersfiel­d College’s degree in industrial automation is one that a California Legislativ­e Analyst’s Office report noted filled hard-tostaff positions for employers and that its expansion as a bachelor’s degree offered better preparatio­n.

Liz Rozell, the director of Kern County’s Valley Strong Energy Research Institute, said the degree in industrial automation helped to address one of the main pitfalls of workforce training. It is often focused on new technology that is ever-changing.

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