Three recently launched state programs offer new opportunities for the College of the Sequoias – a financial literacy program, a program for those displaced by the drought, and most intriguing, the possibility of a four-year degree program.
In late September, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that initially allows 15 California community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees in fields not currently served by the California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC). The legislation directs the California Community Colleges system to establish a pilot baccalaureate degree program by the 2017-18 academic year.
“We’re excited about that and we’re very supportive,” said COS Superintendent/President Stan Carrizosa. “We think that community colleges provide cost-effective educational opportunities for students, so the opportunity to have a four-year degree program means more access to students.
“We would like to be a part of the pilot process,” he continued, but added that COS plans to study the legislation before making a recommendation to the COS Board of Directors on whether to submit an application to become one of the 15 community colleges in the pilot program.
“The bill has some pretty tight restrictions,” Carrizosa explained. “The new four-year degree cannot be the same as those offered in the UC or CSU systems. We were a little disappointed by that because COS has a very strong nursing program and we can’t offer a four-year nursing degree.”
Instead, COS would need to propose a four-year degree program not offered by a public university in the state that “meets a demand in the workplace.”
COS has considered several of its two-year programs as a four-year degree offering. Physical therapy assistant is a possibility, according to Carrizosa. “We have a strong two-year program,” he said noting that, “nearly 100% (of those completing the program) get placed in employment, and we know there’s a demand in that industry.” He added that he doesn’t believe that there is a four-year degree already offered in this program.
Other possibilities are a four-year industrial technician program, or one for industrial maintenance, according to Carrizosa, who is still interested in what the criteria are. “We want to apply, but we want to put forward a strong application,” he said.
The school’s administration, academic senate, along with its faculty-based curriculum committee will collaborate on a decision, before a final proposal is submitted to the COS Board of Trustees. “It’s probably a year-long process in the making,” Carrizosa said.
A program closer to fruition is the $150,000 that COS will receive to provide free job training courses to those who lost their jobs as a result of the drought. COS will offer a 170-hour certified production technician program to serve individuals seeking entry -level production jobs in the advanced manufacturing sector. The program will also serve those who are English language learners by including an 80-hour add-on component of Vocational ESL for those who need it. Those who complete the program will be prepared to become certified production technicians, and also have enhanced math, language, computer and life skills.
Five other Valley community colleges – Fresno City College, Merced College, Modesto Junior College, Reedley College and West Hills College – will offer different courses as part of the drought-displaced program.
“It’s just a choice that each college made based on what programs they currently have,” explained Jorge Zegarra, director of COS Business, Industry and Community Services. “Modesto Junior College will manage the program and coordinate the implementation.”
The program is not a done deal yet, however. “The chancellors have not signed an agreement with Modesto Junior College yet,” said Zegarra. “None of the colleges have an agreement in place with Modesto, and Modesto doesn’t have a contract with the chancellors.” A meeting in Modesto about the program is expected this month.
A financial literacy program to help students make wise choices and prepare for their future has already been launched. California Community Colleges and the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) have partnered to make “CashCourse,” its online financial literacy product, available (and free) to every student in the system.
Students can visit www.cashcourse.org for financial education resources, including articles, videos, a financial dictionary and software to help students understand and build budgets. The site includes topics such as “money 101,” “paying for education,” “making purchases,” “working & earning,” “money & relationships,” and “financial tools.” Community college faculty and staff will also be able to use the website and NEFE’s resources to help build online and classroom financial literacy courses for students, complete with homework assignments and quizzes.
“That’s definitely something that our financial aid department is looking at,” said Brent Calvin, COS vice president of student services. “I think a lot of college campus colleges are using it for their loan recipients, but we don’t have a lot of loan recipients so we haven’t been an early adopter, but the plan is for us to get involved and give that website portal our to our students as a resource. We’ve got a number of pamphlets and handouts that we give to students and this would be a benefit.”