A bill that would indefinitely extend four-year, bachelor degrees at Community Colleges in California is set to face an Assembly vote in the coming days after being unanimously passed through several Assembly committees.
Assembly Bill 927, authored by Assemblyman Jose Medina (D-Riverside), would specifically remove the 2026 end date to SB 850, a bill signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2014 that created the Community College Baccalaureate pilot program. With the end date removed under AB 927, baccalaureate degree programs that help meet unmet workforce needs would continue on at 15 community colleges located around the state, allowing for 30 such degree programs to be offered each academic year. In an amendment, the bill will also require those community colleges that offer a four-year degree to continue to offer an associate degree in the same program unless the Chancellor has approved such program elimination.
Assemblyman Medina wrote the bill to help give greater access to four-year degrees in the state, as community colleges are easier to be accepted into and are overall cheaper than universities and colleges that traditionally offer four-year degrees.
“Community colleges are the founding pillars of higher education; offering critical baccalaureate degree programs will create greater accessibility to higher education,” said Assemblyman Medina last week. “The baccalaureate degree program will play a pivotal role in building back our state’s economy.”
Other supporters have noted that a degree program would help bring more workers into areas of the economy where workforce needs are greatest. Bill supporters also backed the bill because of the opportunities it offers less wealthy and minority Californians. As the California Legislative Analyst’s Office found that more than half of all community college students would not have gone on to a four-year degree if community college had not been offered, paired with 60% of all community college students being from minority or disadvantaged communities, supporters of AB 927 have pointed out that the bill would offer higher education to those who need it for under $10,000.
Four-year degrees at California community colleges
“For lawmakers, it’s really hard not to find something to like about this bill,” community college professor and advisor Robin Gathers explained to the Globe. “It helps minorities, it helps poorer students, it helps fill in gaps of skilled employment needs, it’s making Californians go into careers like the trades that they otherwise wouldn’t have gone to before, it helps businesses out to give a better pool of candidates to work with, and it gives many experience through more hands-on lessons.”
“There is a healthcare worker and skilled-trades shortage, but there is also the demand for a four-year degree from students who want that diploma. And if the programs align, that means someone can get a four-year degree on the cheap, gain a lot of crucial knowledge of a skilled trade, then go into an apprenticeship with the basics and some experience already down for a more work-oriented education. A lot of people say young people should go into the trades or directly into healthcare fields where knowledge of medicine or healing isn’t needed, but the thing they don’t realize is that a four-year degree is important to many to have. To say they have accomplished that. To have attained a lot of crucial knowledge to perform an apprenticeship better. This would make everyone happy. That’s why no one is really voting against it.”
Opposition against AB 927 has been largely non-existent, with many groups ranging from local chambers of commerce to the National Association 0f Social Workers backing the bill. Unanimous, bipartisan committee votes have also largely shown the level of political support for AB 927.
AB 927 is expected to be voted on in the Assembly very soon.