First Class Takes Flight in Bachelor’s Degree Pilot Program Success Stories

July 30, 2018
Bachelor's Degree Program graduates

A pioneering class of 140 students made history this spring, becoming the first ever cohort to earn bachelor’s degrees from the California Community Colleges.

Created in 2014, the Bachelor’s Degree Program seeks to improve college access in order to address a projected shortage of qualified workers with a bachelor’s degree, projected to reach 1.1 million by 2030.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the group that performed the study, the effects of this shortage could be significant—a population that is less skilled is relegated to working jobs bearing lower pay, which means not only fewer tax dollars, but a greater burden on social services, as well.

“Offering bachelor’s degrees at community colleges allows California to provide students with a high-quality education that prepares them for in-demand careers, while responding to labor market gaps in thriving industries,” said Barbara Juncosa, head of the Biotechnology department at MiraCosta College. “MiraCosta is committed not only to meeting industry needs, but also to continue to close the equity gap in higher education.”

In order to address this “degree gap,” pilot programs were initiated at 15 campuses across California, based on the workforce demands of the region each college serves. Special attention was made to fill degree and industry sectors that were not serviced by existing programs at the state’s regional public universities. Development moved quickly, and by fall 2015, several of these carefully selected colleges were offering Bachelor’s degree programs.

“The academic rigor and success of the Foothill College dental hygiene program made it an ideal candidate for the development of a bachelor’s degree under the pilot program,” said program director Phyllis Spragge, who reported a 100 percent pass rate for the Dental Hygiene National Board Exam from Foothill College.

Associate Professor Connie Renda, director of the health information management program at San Diego Mesa College, saw similarly expedient results on her campus.

“The first week we started the baccalaureate program, Sharp Healthcare called me to collaborate in creating an employment pipeline straight from our college,” said Renda.

This spring, San Diego Mesa College started filling that pipeline after graduating an inaugural class of 16 students with bachelor’s degrees in health information management.

One of those Mesa College graduates, Henry Cunningham, explains the career and cost benefits like this: “A bachelor’s degree goes a long way in the health information management field, especially on the information technology and systems analysis side of things. This being a community college where the cost is next to nothing compared to some of the online programs that are out there, I’m saving a lot of money and I’m not going into debt, all while having a lot of doors opening for my career.”

For more information about the participating colleges and the programs offered, visit