1456763_10152153038379879_1125226773_nFifteen community colleges in California have begun work on establishing baccalaureate degree programs, which would allow prospective students to receive Bachelor’s Degrees, since Governor Jerry Brown approved SN 850 this September, with Allan Hancock College of Santa Maria recently applying for one of two degree programs under the new law.

The bill provides that each college have one baccalaureate program available at each participating campus, beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year. Allan Hancock College, a community college in Santa Maria, made an application to the program last month, applying for programs in career technology, education and liberal studies. The bill was written by Senator for San Diego County Marty Block and co-authored by Senator for San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties Jerry Hill, created to educate college students in specific industries and prepare them for jobs that contribute to their local economy’s vitality. Santa Barbara City College did not make an application.

Any California Community College that implements a four-year degree program will do so at the discretion of the college’s chancellor and board of directors, according to the bill. The bill also states that the program will be responsible for determining specific districts’ employment needs.

Senator Block said the new program will allow students to go directly into certain work fields after graduation.

“SB 850 is preparing students for job openings that exist today,” Block said. “California employers need more students trained for specific jobs coming out of college and SB 850 will prepare students for those particular jobs.”

According to Block, the degrees at each community college must cater to the specific needs of the particular area.

“What is taught at each community college will vary based on each location and what the workforce needs based on that location,” Block said. “In every location it will be a set of courses tied to specific job needs so that will boost the economy.”

According to Block’s Communications Director Maria Lopez, the program is oriented to benefit and address the needs of the local community in which the community college resides, which means the colleges must fulfill certain requirements in order to partake in the program.

“In the bill, one of the requirements for the colleges to be selected for this pilot program is to have a demonstrative local workforce need,” Lopez said. “One of the bill’s goals of course is to increase the number of students who complete their degrees, and also who have jobs later, and ensuring that there is a local workforce demand will help meet one of the goals.”

Lopez also said about 36 of California’s 112 community colleges have applied to be part of the program in the upcoming year, and the selection decision will be made by Jan. 21, 2015.

Allan Hancock College Public Affairs Coordinator Vicki Hernandez said the Santa Maria college is looking into the potential Bachelor’s degree programs to offer prospective students.

“Allan Hancock College has also submitted a letter of intent to the Chancellor’s office and AHC [Allan Hancock College] faculty will be working in the coming weeks to draft possible degree programs,” Hernandez said. “It sounds like [it’s] still in the very early stages of possibilities.”

According to Lopez, the Bachelor’s Degree pilot program will not duplicate any degrees already offered at secondary institutions in California and will instead opt towards vocational degrees.

“For example literature or photography would not be a degree, or history as a major would not be included,” Lopez said. “The degrees are mostly aimed at careers such as the automotive industry.”

Lopez said the colleges will be putting together the programs they want to provide, along with the pilot program, which will differ based on the geographical needs of the area.

“There are a number of other career programs that the colleges want to offer,” Lopez said. “I believe Grossmont College in San Diego has applied to be one of the pilot schools as health management information.”

According to Block, there is a wide range of degree programs that have been applied for by many colleges.

“There are things like respiratory therapy, radiology technology, mortuary science, automotive technology and fishery management,” Block said, “There’s a lot of different degrees created by the colleges to accommodate for their geographic needs.”