Nearly Half of U.S. States Allow Community Colleges to Offer Bachelors Degree Programs

March 18, 2020

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Title: Community College Bachelor’s Degrees: An Update on State Activity and Policy Considerations

Authors: Mary Fulton

Source: Education Commission of the States

A recent policy brief from the Education Commission of the States studies the recent growth of community college bachelor’s degree programs. Currently, 12 states allow select community colleges to offer bachelor’s programs, while an additional 11 states allow all community colleges to them.

The brief presents common arguments both for and against implementating these programs, with advocates citing the ability to meet increasing workforce needs, expand college access, and provide lower cost bachelor’s degree programs as benefits.

Conversely, opponents argue that these programs may lead to mission creep, duplicate program offerings, increase competition with nearby four-year institutions, and lead to increased costs, further exhausting limited financial resources. The author notes that most state policies addressed at least one of the areas of criticism.

The brief concludes with recommendations for policymakers interested in developing a community college bachelor’s degree program, suggesting they first identify and consider:

  1. The purpose of developing community college bachelor’s programs, including what data is most appropriate for colleges to demonstrate increased program demand or workforce need.
  1. What specific agencies would have review and program approval authority, how often evaluations would occur, and what role accreditors would hold in the process.
  1. The short- and long-term financial implications, including how similarly focused four-year bachelor’s program costs would be impacted. What would be the most appropopriate metrics for colleges to demonstrate sufficient resource capacity?

To read highlights from individual state policies and the full report, please click here.

—Charles Sanchez

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