Community Colleges Increasingly Adding Bachelor’s Degrees
Career College Central summary:
St. Petersburg Junior College is one of an increasing number of community colleges around the country that have started offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in fields for which there is high job demand. Critics and supporters of the trend say alternately that it is helping fill an important social need most universities aren’t, or that it’s an ego-driven, money-wasting cry for prestige and respect from institutions at the low end of the higher-education hierarchy.
Whatever their motivation, community colleges in 21 states now have the authority to offer bachelor’s degrees, including 25 of the 28 in Florida; St. Petersburg College alone has 25 baccalaureate programs, the most among one-time two-year schools. Students are responding with enthusiasm. The number enrolling at former community colleges in Florida alone to get bachelor’s degrees has nearly quadrupled to more than 30,000 in just five years. And there seems to be one principal reason: It’s cheaper and more convenient than attending a four-year university, especially for working parents and part-time students who make up a large proportion of the people who go to community colleges.
Universities’ opposition to baccalaureate programs at community colleges “comes down to the money. And from my perspective, the focus ought to be on meeting the needs of the students.” — Kenneth Walker, founder and former chairman, Community College Baccalaureate Association
The cost of a baccalaureate course at St. Petersburg College is $118.70 per credit hour, compared to $211.19 at the nearby University of South Florida. And the difference is widening. Full-time tuition and fees per year for a bachelor’s degree at a Florida community college is $3,541, compared to $6,069 at a public university, a difference of $2,258 — up from a difference of $1,853 in 2011.
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THE HECHINGER REPORT