Community colleges should offer four-year degrees

by on July 24, 2012 · 7 comments

in California, Economy, Education, Popular, San Diego

Campus of Southwestern Community College.

Editor: This is a commentary sent to us by OBcean Richard Grosch who wrote it in conjunction with labor activist Peter Zschiesche and was published in the July 18th OpEd pages of the U-T San Diego. Grosch is president of the San Diego Community College District board of trustees, and Zschiesche is the executive vice president of the board.

By Richard Grosch & Peter Zschiesche / U-T San Diego / Originally published July 18, 2012

California has a higher education crisis. The University of California (UC), the California State University System (CSU) and the California Community College system have all been hit with deep reductions in state funding for students’ education in the face of unprecedented need for job training, college degree preparation and re-careering.

Within this troubled mix, community college students are at the greatest disadvantage. Doors to a public university baccalaureate degree are being closed to qualified local community college students and high school graduates. These students are being turned away from admission to UC San Diego (UCSD) and San Diego State University (SDSU) to make way for students from outside San Diego who have mostly straight “A” grades, can pay higher non-California resident fees or can pay to stay in expensive on-campus housing.

For many local UC- and CSU-qualified students, the additional costs of enrolling at a UC or CSU campus in another part of the state is an unaffordable option. Undergraduate class enrollment costs at UC and CSU campuses are approximately $395 and $295 per credit unit, respectively. These amounts do not include a variety of additional fees or room and board expenses for on-campus housing away from the campus nearest home.

Costs at for-profit or private colleges and universities can be significantly greater for many middle-class and low-income parents. In the case of online classes at Ashford University, the cost is $402 per credit unit. For the University of San Diego, the cost is approximately $1,590 per credit unit. Both universities require additional fees.

> Fewer opportunities for talented San Diego students to earn a public university degree translates into a skills shortage for regional businesses seeking more local college graduates to fuel the regional economy. Local industries cry out for a more educated workforce, but the current public higher education system is not providing opportunities for all our local students who are trying to answer their call.

We believe part of the solution to this problem lies in authorizing California’s community colleges, including those in the San Diego Community College District, to begin offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in certain subject majors that are in high demand by San Diegans and unmet by UCSD and SDSU. Community colleges in San Diego can do their part as are 42 other community colleges in 21 states across the United States that are currently offering 231 accredited baccalaureate degrees in fields ranging from nursing and radiologic and imaging science to software engineering and energy technology management.

If you agree with us, we urge your support of efforts in the upcoming legislative session to provide a baccalaureate degree option for community-college students. It is the best and most cost-effective way to provide our local college-ready students with a four-year public college education.

San Diego’s community colleges are capable of providing these high-demand baccalaureate degrees. We have the qualified faculty, new state-of-the-art facilities being built with $1.555 billion in local Propositions S and N tax dollars, and established relations with local industries that keep our academic programs relevant.

Sixty years ago, President Harry Truman called for a network of community colleges to dramatically expand opportunities for veterans returning from World War II. He envisioned the community colleges as the first step toward a more educated and productive America. In 2011, President Barack Obama reaffirmed that call to a nation faced with rapid technological change and global competition. If UCSD and SDSU are going to reduce their role in admitting qualified community-college transfer students, then surely the San Diego community colleges should not be denied the opportunity to meet the patriotic challenge forcefully expressed by two of our nation’s presidents.

We would certainly coordinate this effort in cooperation with UCSD and SDSU to avoid wasteful duplication. We call on San Diegans to join us so that we may begin the process of strengthening our local and the nation’s economy by building this new academic initiative for our local students.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Prattle On, Boyo July 24, 2012 at 10:19 am

It seems neither Richard Grosch nor Peter Zschiesche have been job hunting lately, especially in San Diego county. College degrees aren’t necessary to serve fries and pour coffee, which, assuming you can find a vacancy doing either, is pretty much the only thing that is available these days.


avatar Goatskull July 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Sadly, any kind of upward mobile future is just not in the cards for a growing number of people. It’s one of the reasons my wife and I and many of our friends choose not to have kids. Not only that, but many people we know in the teaching profession are either leaving the state for greener pastures or if they are staying they have thrown their hands up in the air, quit the profession and are getting into other lines of work. Unsettling to say the least, but who can blame them? Thank God for those who are sticking it out as long as possible. All in all, not a good sign.


avatar RB July 24, 2012 at 11:36 am

Although, the article seems to contain some self promotion, I think this could be a solution that is studied. However, many states are solving many of the problems identified in this article by using satellite campuses.

Also, I do object to the entitlement notion that local students should be preferred over other state residents. These are state not local institutions. The local area already benefits by the graduates and businesses created from the local universities. The fact that SDSU is becoming the jewel of the Cal State system and is attracting better qualified and harder working students is a good thing.


avatar uc and csu grad July 24, 2012 at 2:39 pm

A portion of the author’s argument is based on the statement, “Fewer opportunities for talented San Diego students to earn a public university degree translates into a skills shortage for regional businesses seeking more local college graduates to fuel the regional economy.” However it doesn’t factor in the percent of highly talented, non-regional graduates who stay in San Diego. For SDSU its 60% of all graduates ( Also this the article makes the claim without support that “San Diego’s community colleges are capable of providing these high-demand baccalaureate degrees. ” Just because we are spending money on certain programs/schools does not mean that they are in any way fit to confer baccalaureate degrees. CC’s are a stepping stone for moving in to a technician-level jobs or matriculation through a traditional four year. There is no way that campuses like Mesa/Grossmont/City could offer the advanced (upper div) courses needed for a BS/BA. 1) The student pool at these campuses is too small to rationalize offering these courses. 2) Taking schools built for 2-3 year turn over and flipping them into a 4-5 year turnover doesn’t work, (just think of the parking logistics). 3) Assuming these students wish to progress further in their educational development, i.e. the master’s and ph.d. level there is no way they will be on a remotely even playing field with other applicants from, for example UCSD who hold the same BS.


avatar ati June 5, 2013 at 2:18 am

CC can definitly offer 4 year degrees, but not in every field of study, only in specialized technical programs. For instance, Miramar college can offer a medical technology, bs. Currently they offer an as in mlt program. This is technical field and they have the resources and facilities, phd prof, and certified cls profs, just need to add more…Grossmont can offer BS in Nursing, why not since the new proposition pass, they will have a reason to tear down and rebiuld new structures. Most of the science courses at SDSU are not preparing the students for real life industry experience, there are only reserach opportunities in certain areas for certain students. However, CC can provide on job training with their new BS degrees, while supported thru funding, donations from the industry.


avatar Andy Cohen July 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Just a note: Incoming freshman students to SDSU are required to live on campus. The school no longer allows freshmen to live at home, unless there are special circumstances.


avatar Goatskull July 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

I know this may be a dumb question but how exactly can they enforce that? What if a student IS in fact a lifelong San Diego resident? What if this student just so happens to life with family who happen to live in close proximity to the SDSU campus? What if the student is a middle aged San Diego adult who decides to go back to school full time?
If the student IS an incoming freshmen from Oregon and comes from a very well off family who are willing to pay the rent for an off campus apartment, is there an actual curfew in the year 2012? I don’t mean to come off as argumentive (just in case I am) but it just seems like a very odd rule.


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