15 CA community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees in pilot program

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Fifteen community colleges in the state have been picked to participate in a pilot program to offer a four-year-degree for the first time. (KABC)

Santa Ana College student Cobi Alcentar could soon do something she never thought possible: leave school with her bachelor's degree.

"It opens a lot of doors for us that were once closed, so I think it would be great." Alcentar said.

Santa Ana College is one of 15 community colleges in California that received preliminary approval Tuesday to participate in a pilot program to offer a four-year degree.

Until now, the state's 112 community colleges only offered two-year associate degrees. The pilot program was made possible by a bill passed last year.

"This way we can provide a bridge for those students to get a baccalaureate degree and prepare them that much more for future studies, graduate level studies," said Omar Torres, Santa Ana College's vice president of academic affairs.

To qualify, the degree must currently not be offered in the UC or Cal State system. For Santa Ana College, it's a bachelor's degree in occupational studies.

The higher division courses will cost an additional $84 a unit on top of the regular per-unit fee, bringing the total cost to $132. Students say it's still a major bargain compared to traditional universities.

"You can still get the same education as a good university, except it's cheaper," Alcentar said.

For students like Alcentar, saving money on her bachelor's degree could mean better opportunities in the future.

It's "a different pathway to give us more options," Alcentar said.

If Santa Ana College receives final approval in March, school administrators say upper division classes could be offered by 2017.

Below is a list of community colleges approved for the pilot and the degree being offered:
  • Antelope Valley College - airframe manufacturing

  • 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

  • MiraCosta College - biomanufacturing

  • Modesto Junior College - respiratory care

  • Rio Hondo College - automotive technology

  • San Diego Mesa College - health information management

  • Santa Ana College - occupational studies

  • Santa Monica College - interaction design

  • Shasta College - health information management

  • Skyline College - respiratory therapy

  • West Los Angeles College - dental hygiene

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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