Mission creep

Leave the four-year degrees to the universities.

By Jordan Utley-Thomson, Staff Writer

The California community college system may offer bachelor’s degrees in the future, thus forever changing the role of two-year institutions. This would eliminate that annoying¬†transfer process, there would be no need to move and upper-division classes would be offered at a community college price tag. Students could have their cake and eat it.

Except, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

First off, where is the money, Lebowski? Los Angeles Valley College was in the red last year, and many other community colleges share the same budget problems. The surplus created in part by Proposition 30 is nice, but with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to bailout California’s broken prison system with taxpayer money meant for education, who knows how long that will last.

Second, the additional accreditation requirements will be a problem. San Francisco City College cannot even finance themselves properly as a two-year college, which has put them on the path to losing accreditation by July 2014. On a milder note, colleges such as Valley and Mission have been issued mere warnings, but are these signs that these institutions are capable of offering anything beyond an associate’s degree?

Third, this completely goes against the California Master Plan for Higher Education. The plan set up a coherent system built on a hierarchy that defines the proper roles for the University of California, the California State University and the California Community Colleges systems. One of its underlying principles is to assign separate goals to each system in order to promote excellence in different areas and reduce waste on duplicate efforts.

Giving California community colleges the ability to grant bachelor’s degrees will turn the system into a jack of all trades, master of none. This will also waste money on responsibilities that can be done far more efficiently at universities.

The very suggestion feels like some bad practical joke, but it is unfortunately not, nor is it surprising. This kind of mission creep has happened before when the CSUs lobbied for the ability to grant doctoral degrees in education. In 2005, they got their wish. Not that this was enough: in 2010, they were granted the authority to offer doctorates in nursing and physical therapy.

Once again, the people in charge of California’s education have shown that they did not take a single basic economics or accounting course in college. Had they done this, they would be aware of cost-benefit analysis: something that community colleges with bachelor’s degrees clearly violates.

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