Would you ask Pepsi to make Coke?  You want your heart surgeon to do your brain surgery?  Do you want the Common App…scratch that.

The current buzz in California higher education is discussion around community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees.  Although there are many “No” arguments, I will focus on two.  First, we (and I take the liberty to speak for all community colleges here) have enough to do to meet the needs of the students we have.  Second, there are plenty of places, brick and mortar, and virtual, to earn a bachelor’s degree.

First argument: We have enough to do with the students we serve.  We teach lower division coursework, and we do it really well.  Just ask Berkeley, UCLA, USC, and many other institutions that take our 60,000 transfers each year.  We teach remedial coursework well.  CSUs got out of the remediation business years ago, and sent those students to us (and still do).  We teach English to non-native speakers, and we offer coursework to folks in the work place that need to augment their skills.  And for those that want to re-tool, like my niece’s boyfriend (a first generation college student), we offer certificates and training in Computer Network Security (at West LA College).  Notice I said we do it well.  We don’t do it best, and we do want to do all these things better.  But the minute you add this to our plate, it will be one more mission we will do well, but not best.

Second Argument: There are plenty of places to earn a BA/BS/BSN, etc.  The ‘problem’ of not enough Californians having bachelor’s degrees isn’t for lack of access.  I estimate that 90% of our population is within 15 miles of a CSU.  And that percentage would go even higher when adding privates and UCs.  And what they do well, they could do better. Augment what already exists!!   When asked how UC and CSU could be taking in more international students the last few years, while taking fewer Californians, the argument from them was, “We have the capacity to take more students, just not the state funding to teach them.  International students pay for themselves.” So, why not augment what they already do, so Californians can earn those degrees?  The ‘problem’ of not enough degrees is degree granting institutions not having enough resources to offer more classes and help students earn the BA.  And college is too expensive, so look at better Cal grants, or more realistic loans.

You can never convince me that this proposal, no matter how well written with cost caveats, would not draw resources away from our core mission.  We have yet to implement the 2012 Student Success Act, that, at its core, mandates us to do what we do now better.   Now is not the time to tack on another mission that others are already doing.  And yes, I read the “Report from the California Community Colleges Degree Study Group”, and almost every suggestion posited, from more studies to implementation, will cost significant dollars and resources.  A more detailed analysis of that report will be part 2 next month.

By Dan Nannini