Community colleges aim to offer 4-year degrees

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SAN DIEGO -- A select number of California community colleges can now offer students four-year degrees through a new statewide pilot program.

Grossmont-Cuyamaca, MiraCosta, San Diego and Southwestern community college districts are among 36 in the state that have applied to offer bachelor's degrees.

Only 15 districts will be selected to offer a baccalaureate degree program at one of their colleges in a field of study not offered by California State University or University of California schools.

The San Diego community college district has applied to offer Health Information Management, a major Mesa college officials said is in high demand.

“Because of technology and the changes in healthcare legislation, it’s moved the skill sets to a level higher than a two-year degree,” said Margie Fritch, Dean of Health Sciences and Public Service. “Previously, students needed an associate degree to get into the field and now, particularly in health care, they need to have a four-year as a minimum.”

The cost of a community college degree will be significantly less compared to going to a trade school or private university. Each upper-division class will cost an extra $84 per unit.

“You’re looking at about $10,600 –- something like that -- for a four year degree," Fritch said. "It’s the most affordable in the state."

Grossmont-Cuyamaca has applied to offer a degree in environmental health and safety management, and MiraCosta applied to offer a degree in biomanufacturing. Southwestern has applied to offer a degree in allied health.

“I think it’s going to be overwhelmingly successful because colleges have really thought through which programs are really needed," Fritch said. "We have looked at labor market data."

Other districts have asked to offer degrees in aviation maintenance, dental hygiene, food safety, real estate appraisal, mortuary science, computer-cyber security and other subjects.

The final selection is scheduled to be made by the community college system board of governors Jan. 15.

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