Henry Cunningham sits on a large rock in a garden at Mesa College

Henry Cunningham earned a four year degree in Health Information Management at San Diego Mesa College.

UCLA study supports value of community college baccalaureate programs

May 5, 2023 | San Diego Community College District

A recent study from the University of California at Los Angeles confirmed what graduates of San Diego Mesa College’s baccalaureate program already know: community college bachelor’s degrees provide an excellent choice for many students who otherwise might not have pursued higher education.

The research by the Civil Rights Project at the university found that bachelor’s degrees offered by California community colleges help meet the state’s need for college-educated workers and offer the opportunity for an education for economically-disadvantaged students who can’t afford college or are unable to leave home to attend a university.

Read the study

“The community college baccalaureate presents a new opportunity to concretely provide more accessible, affordable, and place-bound bachelor’s degrees to advance social mobility for racially and ethnically diverse students, and to meet local workforce needs,” the study stated.

San Diego Mesa College, which offers a baccalaureate degree in Health Information Management, was one of 15 community colleges in California to offer bachelor’s degrees during a pilot program after legislation was approved in 2014. Additional legislation in 2021 expanded the program to colleges around the state, and 29 California community colleges are seeking to add bachelor’s degree programs.

San Diego City College has been approved for a baccalaureate program in Cyber Defense and Analysis that is set to launch in fall 2024. San Diego Miramar College has received provisional approval for a bachelor’s degree program in Public Safety Management.

The bachelor’s degree programs at community colleges are designed to address workforce needs not addressed by programs offered at California State University and University of California campuses. They also are offered at significant cost savings to students, generally running about $11,000 for all four years.

A 2020 study by the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that more than half of the students surveyed from existing programs would not have pursued a bachelor’s degree if their community college program had not been offered, and that graduation rates among those in the community college baccalaureate program are higher than graduation rates among those transferring from community college to a California State University campus.

The UCLA report said community college baccalaureates are the best vehicle to transform who succeeds in California’s higher education and labor market. “The programs can play a key role in (1) closing key racial equity gaps, (2) opening new paths for advanced education, and (3) sustaining our democracy,” the report stated.

The Health Information Management baccalaureate program at Mesa College has graduated about 116 students since it started. Henry Cunningham, one of the first graduates in 2018, praised the program.

“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,” he said.

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