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12.9.5: Bachelorette Programs at California Community Colleges- Conflicts and Benefits

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    by Mark Mendoza

    The journey to a career is an interesting path, one filled with many different opportunities and options. These opportunities and options come from many different types of schools students can choose from, but the most popular options are California State Universities (CSUs) and Universities of California (UCs). Most people choose to attend a University for the big college experience and because that specific school offers a specialty or program in a desired study. Choosing to attend some sort of higher education program or school is a big decision for many people. It’s a life changing process with a lot of pay off, but the expenses of attending a CSU or UC is a big deterrent for a lot of students (Binkley). However, community colleges are a great way to get a start on obtaining a higher education without starting your college life with excruciating student debt. Some may argue getting an Associate’s degree won’t be worthwhile in holding down a career, but California Community Colleges (CCCs) are now offering Bachelor degree programs. Because of this, community college is now becoming a great alternative to attending a post-secondary school at an affordable cost. While this opportunity is great for many people wanting to obtain a career, Cal States sees it as overstepping their territory, and are pushing against CCC’s efforts of expanding offered degrees.

    The Challenge

    Assembly Bill 927 is the bill that officialized and made the Bachelorette Degree Program permanent for California Community Colleges. This bill plans to “extend the operation of the statewide baccalaureate degree pilot program indefinitely” (“Assembly Bill 927”). The bill allows all, but especially marginalized students to obtain higher education beyond an associate's degree. Many students in poverty, which are often students of color, struggle with getting out of poverty because they can’t afford to obtain a degree that will allow them better job opportunities (“The Latest Poverty…”, Privette). This bill lets that be possible. However, Cal States and community colleges have tensions with this bill in place and are asking for the process of adding new programs to be put on pause. CSUs and UCs are concerned about duplicative programs, which the bill allows them to assess under section four (“Assembly Bill 927”). They are also concerned about losing students, but only “a few thousand community college students a year, at most, could benefit from the new bachelor’s degree program” (Echelman). The Bachelor degree programs are small with a very limited amount of spaces, and alongside that, they don’t have open enrollment, so “students must apply to the programs, and not all are accepted” (Burke). Though enough time hasn’t passed for confirmation, even with an increasing number of bachelor degree programs being offered at community colleges, students won’t stop going to Cal States and Universities. Campus life, along with certain programs and specialties that can’t be found at community colleges, are important factors to students in their career path.

    How the Bachelorette Degree Program is Beneficial

    It’s no secret that there are large disparities when it comes to post-secondary education. Black and Hispanic students face some of the largest disparities, which can be linked  back to poverty rates amongst these demographics. These rates can be observed below (“The Latest Poverty…”). According to an article from the Ballard Brief, Privette states  “Only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation college students who enroll in a 4-year institution earn their degrees within 6 years, while 55 percent of their higher-income peers do” (Privette). The rates at which students from a low-income and minority group background is far lower than it should, and with a decline in enrollment, these rates will only persist, and get even worse. A visual of the decline is shown below (Montoya, et al).

    In Montoya’s article from the PPIC, he and his contributors state that, “These declines are especially troubling because of the strong link between college degrees and economic
    opportunity” (Montoya, et al). The strong link mentioned is a commonly observed pattern on the success and income of an individual and their degrees/certificates. For example, if you hold an Associate’s degree over a High School diploma, you’re more likely to have a slightly better income. If you hold a Bachelor’s degree compared to an Associates or diploma, you are very likely to hold a much higher income than both as many high paying careers require a Bachelor's degree. This is where the CCCs Bachelorette programs become incredibly helpful. Since obtaining a Bachelor’s degree is more likely to land you in a career with a comfortable income, then community colleges offering Bachelorette programs could potentially be great aid in the disparities amongst students in minority groups. Community college is a much more affordable alternative and it’s more accessible than universities.

    Solutions for Universities and Community Colleges to Avoid Conflict

    Some actions have already been paused on making new bachelor degree programs so that Cal States and CCCs can discuss and resolve tensions. The Cal State board wants to take time to go over and discuss the application cycle to ensure there are no duplications in programs. They also wish to improve the process by ensuring duplicate programs do not occur (Weissman). The Community College board doesn’t agree with pausing the process and insists on letting new programs continue to come out. One of these programs, the applied fire management degree at Feather River College, got pushed out before even being reviewed by the Universities. The reason for the push out was that the programs it was similar to were at Universities 5-8 hours away from Feather River (Spitalniak). This action violates what’s stated in the bill for the process of releasing a new program.

    California Community Colleges should cooperate with Cal States and the University of California to address their concerns and come to a compromise. After all, there are still large disparities in access to higher education, as well as an overall decrease in enrollment (Hanson). One solution, which meets in the middle, could be that they slow down, but not pause, the process of the bachelor degree programs so that they can review and edit or decline the program as needed to ensure duplication does not occur, or that duplicated programs are not clustered in one area. One downside of this method could be that they may have to decrease the amount of programs they are able to accept and implement each year. As these programs become more implemented and popular, the three should watch how many students attending each institution fluctuates, and then work to balance these numbers as needed, and if needed. Another method of the Universities and Community Colleges working together could be by creating a combined and specialized board that is focused on resolving the issues of duplicative programs, and therefore ensuring students across demographics can achieve a higher education. This way, each institution can continue with their own goals, while having specialized teams working together to combat issues. Having a cooperative team could possibly introduce more jobs, as well as quicken or introduce an efficient way for community colleges to keep their bachelor program running smoothly. This method could also potentially create roadblocks if agreements can’t be made. If this happens, they could pause the specific program and move on to others in order to not create too much delay in program release goals.


    At the end of the day, the goal is to open up more opportunities for students wishing to pursue bachelor’s degrees without the extra cost, as well as getting more people into school. Post-secondary education should be accessible and Bachelor degrees being introduced to community colleges aids this struggle. It’s very important that CSUs, UCs, and CCCs work together to close disparities in minority groups and get students back to school in effort to expand struggling fields that are currently lacking workers.

    Works Cited

    “Assembly Bill 927.” California Legislative Information, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Binkley, Collin. “Why more Americans are skipping college.” PBS, 10 March 2023, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Burke, Michael. “What to know about bachelor's degrees at California Community Colleges |Quick Guide – EdSource.” EdSource, 27 July 2023, y-colleges-quick-guide/694808. Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Echelman, Adam. “Bachelor’s degrees pit Cal State against community colleges.” CalMatters, 11 August 2023, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    “The Latest Poverty, Income, and Food Insecurity Data Reveal Continuing Racial Disparities.” Center for American Progress, 21 December 2022, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Montoya, Daniel, et al. “Declining Higher Education Enrollment Could Widen Inequality in California.” Public Policy Institute of California, 31 March 2023, -in-california/. Accessed 15 November 2023.

    Privette, Monica. “Intergenerational Poverty in the United States - Ballard Brief.” Ballard Brief, 15 May 2023, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Spitalniak, Laura. “California becomes battleground over bachelor's degrees at community colleges.” Higher Ed Dive, 11 May 2023, /news/bachelors-degrees-california-community-colleges-feather-river/649662/. Accessed 25 October 2023.

    Weissman, Sara. “Negotiating bachelor's degree programs at community colleges.” Inside Higher Ed, 10 October 2023, Accessed 25 October 2023.

    12.9.5: Bachelorette Programs at California Community Colleges- Conflicts and Benefits is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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