Staff and students praise the California community college bachelor pilot program

AB927 expanded the program after showing the positive impact it has had on communities


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California community colleges can now offer bachelor’s degrees within specific workforce fields. (Photo via iStock)

In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 850, which gave 15 community colleges the ability to offer bachelor’s degrees in specific workforce fields. Last year, Assembly Bill 927 removed the 15 college cap, as it was deemed a success.

SB 850’s baccalaureate degree pilot program is based on unmet workforces in the college region, encouraging students to complete the program and stay employed locally. 

The program, which is not offered at American River College yet, was set to end in 2023 and repealed by 2024. But AB 927, sponsored by Jose Medina, Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, has extended it indefinitely. 

Barbara Juncosa is the biotechnology department chair at Mira Vista Community College, which through SB 850, was awarded the opportunity to offer a biomanufacturing bachelor’s degree.

Juncosa praised the quality of education and is very proud of the results so far. Graduates have even come back to help with mock interviews and offer industry insights for program improvements.

“We have worked hard to support students through their educational journey,” Juncosa said in an email to The Current. “The program has been able to serve students who might not have been able to complete a bachelor’s degree due to financial limitations and work/life challenges.”

According to Juncosa, students apply for the bachelor’s program once they complete their Associate’s Degree. The bachelor’s program takes two years to complete and is aligned with industry needs. The program is hands-on and focuses on a cohort-style approach, where students can build communities and have a support system.

Michael Fino, dean of mathematics and sciences at Mira Costa, centered his dissertation on the access and success of underserved students in the biomanufacturing degree program offered at the college.

“What this program has accomplished cannot be understated,” Fino said in an email to The Current. “It has transformed the lives and socio-economic trajectories of these students and their families.” 

During a February 2022 student media teleconference hosted by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley confirmed that the CCCCO is already working on the implementation of the program in different colleges.

“We’re going to work with our colleges to allow for the planning and creation of programs that respond to workforce needs in communities like yours,” Oakley said. “We are certainly already moving to implement the law.”

According to Scott Crow, ARC’s communications and public officer, ARC does not have anything in place at the moment, but may explore the bachelor’s degree option in the future. 

“We want to always remain open to ways to benefit students,” Crow said in an email to the Current.