Veronica Perez, Keith Law
It’s already happening in 21 states besides California. A bill was introduced here in January that could, if approved, have community college students enrolling in four-year degree programs by 2015. A new report by the California Community Colleges (CCC) Baccalaureate Degree Study Group, convened last year by the CCC chancellor, says that to meet the projected demand for four-year degrees by 2025, the state would need to immediately increase the number of bachelor’s degrees by 40 percent above current levels. We’ve asked two CTA members to weigh in on that possibility.
I don’t think community colleges should offer bachelor’s degrees in everything. But it would be helpful if community colleges offered bachelor’s degrees in some subjects. For careers in health care, technology, law enforcement and other trades, it would be very beneficial if students could continue another two years at a community college. I found it very interesting that some states have already done this.
Before I transferred to CSU Northridge, I went to Riverside Community College and planned to major in nursing. A lot of students want to get into nursing but are turned down by CSU, because the program is overcrowded. If a community college could offer a nursing degree, it would offer students a pathway to a career that is very difficult to gain access to. If I had continued on my goal of becoming a nurse, it would have been very difficult to be admitted into a university program — and very pricey.
I think it would be very helpful for some students financially if they could spend four years at a community college instead of transferring after two years. Because four-year schools are so impacted, some students have to move far away from home to study what they want to study. Some people I know have moved up north or gone to schools out of state.
I didn’t get into my first-choice college near where I live, so I commute from Fontana to CSU Northridge, which is a long way. If I could go to a community college close to home and earn a teaching credential, it would be a lot cheaper. I wouldn’t have to stress over working a minimum wage job or worry about financial aid.
I definitely think that in some cases, it would be a good idea for community colleges to offer four-year degrees.
Veronica Perez, Student CTA, is a junior at CSU Northridge and a future middle school or high school English teacher.
The intentions of our teaching colleagues who support the idea of providing bachelor’s degrees at community colleges are good. However, the politicians behind the plan are seeking another path to deliver higher education on the cheap. Many of the faculty members in four-year colleges also belong to unions, including the California Faculty Association, which is part of CTA and NEA. We should join them in their struggle for more resources to meet workforce needs, rather than subcontracting their work for a cheaper price.
Community colleges are constantly threatened by budget cuts, and faculty salaries have stagnated. We do not enjoy enough resources to do our job as currently mandated by the California Master Plan for Higher Education, so we should not add to these woes by including a mission that belongs to four-year colleges.
Recent student success initiatives are premised on the understanding that community colleges could do a better job of providing two-year credentials and associate degrees, and preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges. If we admit to this, it is odd to suggest that we should add providing four-year degrees to that list.
Community colleges do not have the facilities to teach upper division college courses. Though we have Ph.D.’s among our ranks, that is not a minimum qualification as it is for four-year universities. Further, the most qualified students will attend four-year programs to earn more marketable degrees, leaving community colleges to teach lower-caliber students.
For less money per student than K-12 schools or four-year colleges, we teach everything from remedial basic skills to the first two years of a college education or technical training. Our mission is challenging enough as it is, so let’s do the best we can with the job at hand.
Keith Law, Merced College Faculty Association, is a philosophy/humanities professor.
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