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Skyline among community colleges to offer four-year degrees

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Skyline College will offer a four-year degree in respiratory therapy
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Skyline College in San Bruno is among 15 California community colleges that received preliminary approval Tuesday to start offering career-oriented bachelor's degrees, a step that represents a first for the nation's largest college system. Supporters said the move is needed to ensure residents are prepared for jobs that in the past may have required only two years of training.

The colleges recommended by system Chancellor Brice Harris and endorsed by the system's Board of Governors were selected from a pool of 34 applicants. They are located throughout the state.

“These colleges are embarking on a new mission for the California Community Colleges that will expand opportunities in public higher education,” Harris said. “Students will have a range of programs from which to choose to earn high quality, affordable and in-demand degrees. California employers win too, as they will have improved access to highly qualified candidates in these fields.”

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Until now, the state's 112 community colleges have offered only two-year associate degrees. But a bill authored by Democratic state Sen. Marty Block and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year established a seven-year pilot program that allows a maximum of 15 college districts to offer a single four-year degree each in subjects not currently offered by the University of California or California State University systems.

Emergency services, dental hygiene, automotive technology, respiratory care and mortuary science are some of the degrees the participating colleges plan to offer. City College of San Francisco was not among the schools that applied for the pilot program.

Skyline College President Regina Stanback Stroud, whose San Mateo County school was cleared to expand its existing two-year respiratory therapy program into a four-year course of study, said she hopes to have it operating in fall 2016. Local employers have been telling college officials for some time that they require new hires to hold four-year degrees, Stroud said.

“If you look at that and think about what employers say they need and where the profession is evolving toward high-level skills, we are anticipating a great demand,” she said.

For Skyline's baccalaureate program, course work will include employer-identified skills and abilities in the areas of cardiopulmonary pathophysiology, respiratory disease management, health education, leadership and management, and research principles.

The schools were picked for the four-year program on the basis of location, their capacity to create a high-quality program in a short amount of time and local labor market demand, Harris said.

The programs need to be up and running by the 2017-18 school year, although several schools said Tuesday they expect to be ready before then.

The selected programs are expected to be subject to a final vote in March after leaders from Cal State and UC system officials have been allowed to offer their input.



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