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Program to be funded by workforce partners in community and through student fees


May 23, 2011 (Sacramento) – To help meet demand for more college graduates to help drive California’s economy, Assembly Higher Education Chair Marty Block (AD-78) has authored legislation to look at alternate ways to help students achieve a baccalaureate degree.


AB 661 would allow Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and San Mateo County Community College District to establish baccalaureate degree pilot programs in subject areas where workforce need is high. Yesterday, AB 661 cleared the Assembly Higher Education Committee without opposition.


“At a time when more students are relying on community colleges to fulfill their higher education goals, this legislation would not only expand access for these students, it would also help address local workforce needs in areas like health, biotechnology and other in-demand professions,” said Assemblymember Block. “Offering a quality four-year degree at the community college-level would also open the doors to more students who might not be able to attend a four year institution. By allowing students to complete the baccalaureate degree at a college where they have already demonstrated success, this legislation will help enhance college competition rates and promote greater workforce development in the local community.”


Under this legislation, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and San Mateo County Community College District would be able to establish one baccalaureate degree pilot program per campus.


The purpose of the baccalaureate degree pilot program is to promote economic development by preparing people for occupations that are in demand and require a baccalaureate degree. The districts shall identify and document unmet workforce needs in the subject areas of the baccalaureate degrees to be offered and offer baccalaureate degrees in those subject areas possessing unmet workforce needs in the local community.


The pilot programs under AB 661 would sunset eight years after the first class of students begin the program and the districts would be required submit a report to the Legislature examining the program’s success.


Additionally, any campus that offers a baccalaureate degree must be able to offer the program without impacting current programs. What this will mean is that campuses will have to rely on funding from workforce partners – which provides the additional benefit of strengthening the relationship that campuses have with their community businesses.


The districts may also charge baccalaureate degree-seeking students a fee in an amount to be determined by the district’s governing board to administer the baccalaureate degree pilot program.


Nineteen other states including Florida, Texas and Hawaii have authorized their community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees. California ranks 43rd out of the 50 states in the proportion of its college-age population that attains a baccalaureate degree. Allowing community colleges to confirm bachelor’s degrees is one potential option for expanding access and degree production.


AB 661 now goes to the Assembly floor for a vote.


Democratic Assemblymember Marty Block represents the cities and communities of Bonita, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego, and Spring Valley.

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