As a follower of movements in higher education I love this story. The New York Times recently reported on a new phenomenon in higher education – namely the increasing number of community colleges that are offering Bachelor’s Degrees. I think that this is a great story because it shows how community colleges are bringing the same type of competitiveness that is found in the private market into higher education.
This is long overdue.
Florida leads the way, with 14 community colleges authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees, and 12 already doing so, in fields as varied as fire safety management and veterinary technology. But nationwide, 17 states, including Nevada, Texas and Washington, have allowed community colleges to award associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, and in some, the community colleges have become four-year institutions. Others states are considering community college baccalaureates.
In most cases, the expanding community colleges argue that they are fulfilling a need, providing four-year degrees to working people who often lack the money or the time to travel to a university. But some of those universities are fighting back, saying the community colleges are involved in “mission creep” that may distract them from their traditional mission and lead to watered-down bachelor’s degrees.
Personally, I think that the traditional four-year colleges have too-long enjoyed the monopoly of giving that small piece of paper that so many people need to reach the next levels of their current careers or break in to the career that they want. And what’s great about the community colleges offering these degrees is that they are offering super specialized versions of the traditional degrees.
For example, instead of the generic “public administration” degree students can now get a “public safety administration” degree, specialized for their specific discipline. It’s brilliant.