Community college baccalaureate degrees in the spotlight

by Maria Claudia Soler and Debra Bragg / Mar 26, 2015

Where are community colleges across the country going in regard to baccalaureate degrees? How are baccalaureate programs doing in terms of legislation, program implementation, and outcomes? What can the U.S. learn about baccalaureate programs in vocational education and training systems in countries such as China and Australia?

The 15th Annual International Conference of the Community College Baccalaureate Association (CCBA) was held in Boston, M.A. on March 6-8. The meeting brought together administrators and scholars in the U.S., including organizations in Australia and China, to learn from each others’ experiences about community college baccalaureate degrees. The OCCRL’s Applied Baccalaureate (AB) research team presented findings on STEM AB degrees associated with National Science (NSF)-Advanced Technology Education (ATE) centers and projects. The presentation focused on qualitative research gathered on stakeholder perceptions (community colleges, students, universities, and employers) that promote or hinder the adoption and implementation of AB degrees. Team members have also shared those findings through a series of blog posts.

The conference agenda also included presentations on AB approvalprocesses, program enrollments, curriculum development and implementation, competency-based education, and industry and community partnerships. A focus on nursing education was especially prominent, and the commitment of community colleges to enable more students to access baccalaureates through multiple approaches (ABs, university centers, improved transfer of applied associates of science programs) was fundamental to the conversation. Keynote speaker, Mark Mitsui, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges, highlighted the efforts community colleges are making to expand access to higher education. He encouraged institutions to carry out initiatives to expand their impact across the board, from accessing the community college to receiving the baccalaureate.

With the spotlight shining bright on AB degrees throughout the U.S., it is an exciting time for the study of applied baccalaureates. Our research team is pleased to continue studying and disseminating findings on these degrees.

Maria Claudia Soler s a Ph.D. student in the Education Policy, Organization & Leadership program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a graduate research assistant for OCCRL.

Debra Bragg, CCRL director and Gutsgell Endowed professor at Illinois, researches the transition to college by youth and adults, especially student populations that have not attended college historically.