Bakersfield College has the possibility to provide additional baccalaureate degree programs in the coming years now that its accrediting commission was granted approval to authorize community colleges for more than one baccalaureate degree.
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, or NACIQI, recommended to the U.S. Department of Education that it allow Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, ACCJC, which accredits community colleges in California, Hawaii and the Pacific, to accredit community colleges for more than one baccalaureate degree without limitation.
This comes as good news for the college, President Sonya Christian explained, which has been hoping to increase degree offerings to students.
“Bakersfield College is committed to advancing educational attainment in Kern County, particularly in our rural communities where baccalaureate attainment is especially low," Christian said. "The faculty and staff at BC are working passionately to reduce barriers, increase access to student success programs and leverage meaningful relationships with industry leaders to prepare students for jobs."
With the passing of Senate Bill 850 in 2014, California became the 22nd state to pilot community college baccalaureate programs, according to college officials, and after an application process, BC was selected as one of 15 community colleges to pilot a baccalaureate program.
A baccalaureate degree in industrial automation was selected because of its high employability and importance in local job markets, officials said. Thirteen baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 2019, the second graduating class from the program.
Jessica Wojtysiak, dean of instruction, said the NACIQI recommendation gives community colleges in the state the chance to help prepare future workers rather than employers solely relying on four-year universities.
Any new baccalaureate degree programs at BC would be developed after assessing local economic need with industry partners and any gaps in current local baccalaureate degree offerings, officials explained. BC will work with Cal State Bakersfield to make sure the chosen baccalaureate will complement those offered by the university.
“Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield share a common goal of positioning Kern County students for future success," Christian said. "Together, the faculty and staff at both institutions have collaborated and dedicated their work to making a seamless pathway for students to advance throughout our local educational system towards baccalaureate degree completion."
Officials also recognize there is a strong need to offer baccalaureate degrees in Kern County after a recent WalletHub study ranked Bakersfield 149th in bachelor’s degree attainment out of 150 major U.S. cities.
“With over 20 other states permitting their community colleges to confer baccalaureate degrees, California must also move forward, recognizing the potential we have to help meet the growing need for an educated workforce," Wojtysiak said.
There is no specific timeline in mind yet, but BC will move forward once legislation permits community colleges to offer more than one baccalaureate.
ACCJC President Richard Winn said the commission "stands ready to help" any time a college negotiates with the chancellor's office.