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Proposal Would Let California’s 2-year Colleges Grant 4-year Degrees

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LOS ANGELES (LA Times) — California’s community college system is considering a controversial effort to offer four-year degrees, a move designed to boost the number of students who graduate and are more prepared for the workforce.

The change would require legislation authorizing junior colleges to grant baccalaureate degrees. Colleges would also need to seek additional accreditation as baccalaureate-granting institutions. Supporters argue that it would help to address shortages in workforce training and benefit students in rural areas without access to a four-year university.

But critics, including some community college faculty and officials from four-year universities, counter that it would represent a dramatic shift from the traditional mission of the two-year system. They point to the state’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which designated community colleges as open-for-all campuses for career and transfer students. The four-year universities were to focus on research and higher degrees.

A 16-member panel, appointed by community colleges Chancellor Brice Harris, is weighing the move. The group includes administrators, faculty, a student, a college trustee and representatives from the University of California and California State University systems.

If adopted, California would follow a growing trend: As many as 21 states have approved baccalaureate programs at community colleges, most recently Michigan, which in December granted junior colleges authority to offer four-year degrees in a limited number of fields such as maritime technology and culinary arts.



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