Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Robert C. Hoopes
Title: California Community Colleges Offer New Bachelor’s Degrees, Causing Conflict with CSU System
In a groundbreaking move, a new law in California now permits community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, providing an alternative pathway for students who are unable to attend a traditional four-year institution. However, this development has sparked a heated debate between the community college and California State University (CSU) systems.
The disagreement primarily centers around the duplication of programs. The CSU system argues that many of the proposed bachelor’s degree programs offered by community colleges duplicate what CSU campuses already provide. This conflict sheds light on the larger debate over the roles and boundaries defined by California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, which was established back in 1960.
Under the new law, community colleges can approve up to 30 new bachelor’s degree programs each year, but only if they offer unique fields not available at any public four-year campus. While community colleges enthusiastically embrace this opportunity, the CSU Academic Senate expresses concerns about potential financial losses that could arise from community colleges offering a broader range of bachelor’s degrees.
To address these duplication concerns, strategies such as guaranteed admission to CSU campuses for community college students and joint degree programs have been proposed. The CSU Chancellor’s Office supports a newly proposed law allowing CSU to approve more Ph.D. programs, provided they do not duplicate doctoral degrees offered by the University of California (UC) system.
Students who have enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges applaud the affordability and convenience these institutions offer, particularly for low-income and minority students. The average cost of a bachelor’s degree at a community college is less than half the tuition fees of even the most affordable public universities.
Last year, the CSU system rejected over 13,000 community college students who applied for transfer, further highlighting the demand for alternative educational options. Although some community colleges have submitted applications to offer bachelor’s degrees in unique fields, they face objections from CSU campuses arguing against duplication.
The escalating conflict has prompted state legislators to advocate for a temporary halt in new bachelor’s degree applications until the duplication concerns are adequately addressed. In response, a committee has been established to develop new policies to resolve future conflicts, but it has yet to release any decisions or guidelines.
Meanwhile, the Community College Chancellor’s Office has enlisted the assistance of an independent consulting firm to evaluate the concerns raised by the CSU system regarding program duplication. This evaluation aims to identify potential solutions and ensure that the community college and CSU systems can coexist harmoniously, facilitating more opportunities for students to pursue higher education.
As the debate intensifies, it remains essential to find a balance between expanding educational options to meet students’ diverse needs and ensuring efficient utilization of resources. California’s educational landscape continues to evolve, and navigating these challenges will shape the future of higher education in the state.