Skyline College, Foothill College among 15 picked to offer 4-year degrees

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Two Bay Area community colleges are among 15 that the chancellor of community college system is recommending be authorized to offer 4-year bachelor's degrees under a pilot program.

A new pilot program may change the future of higher education in California. Fifteen community colleges will now be able to offer 4-year degrees in specific areas. And two of them are in the Bay Area.

By specific areas, we're talking about just one program. It doesn't mean the 15 will suddenly offer 4-year degrees in multiple programs. Twenty-one states already have this in place.

The 2-year dental hygiene program at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills has been around for 50 years. Beginning next year, the college will be able to offer students a Bachelor of Science degree. That gives students there a chance to pursue other educational avenues that would not be possible with just a 2-year degree.

"In the future, I'll be able to perhaps go back to an educational setting and teach someday," said student Sandra Gonzalez.

There are only four universities in California that offer a 4-year program in dental hygiene. And all are private. Enrolling in Foothill's program will save students and their parents a lot of money in tuition.

"It opens up opportunities to students that would have a hard time paying for a private university," said program director Phyllis Spragge.

Thirty-six community colleges in California said they were interested in offering baccalaureate degrees. On Tuesday, the California Community College Board of Governors picked 15.

There was only one major requirement that was demanded of these schools.

"We couldn't select a degree or major where it was already offered by a California State University, even if it were offered in San Diego," said Skyline College President Regina Stanback Stroud.

For example, respiratory therapy courses are not offered at any college in the University of California or the California State University systems. But they are at Skyline College in San Bruno. They will now be able to offer a 4-year degree in that specific field.

The goal of this program is to have a more prepared workforce in California.

"We'll prepare them and be able to compete for the jobs that are here," said Stanback Stroud.

The pilot program starts next fall and continues through the end of the school year 2023. If successful, more 4-year degrees would likely be offered at other community colleges.

The 15 colleges announced for the pilot program are:

- Antelope Valley College, Airframe manufacturing technology

- Bakersfield College, Industrial Automation

- Crafton Hills College, Emergency Services and Allied Health Systems

- Cypress College, Mortuary Science

- Feather River College, Equine Industry

- Foothill College, Dental Hygiene

- West Los Angeles College, Dental Hygiene

- Mira Costa College, Bio-manufacturing,

- Modesto Junior College, Respiratory Care

- Skyline College, Respiratory Care

- Rio Hondo College, Automotive Technology

- Mesa College, Health Information Management

- Santa Ana College, Occupational Studies

- Santa Monica College, Interaction Design

- Shasta College, Health Information Management

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