West Los Angeles College has a lot to celebrate this June. In addition to 1,500 students earning a degree or certificate, the Office of the Chancellor for the California Community Colleges has authorized West to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Maintenance: Avionics. This is the second Bachelor’s degree the college has been approved to offer. The first was for the Dental Hygiene program which has been the second most successful grantor of Bachelor’s degrees among the initial 15 California community colleges given permission to offer particular four-year degrees in 2014.
“I believe the success of our launch and implementation of the Dental Hygiene Baccalaureate Program was a factor in our being approved to launch the B.S. in Avionics. We worked in partnership with Boeing to create this unique degree opportunity that is essential for the airline industry. As with our dental hygiene program, this higher-level degree not only gives our graduates the skills to be technicians, but also gives them broader opportunities for higher levels of employment, managerial roles, sales, teaching and more,” explained Dr. Carmen Dones, Dean of Academic Affairs, West alumnae, and key leader in establishing the Baccalaureate programs at West. “And,” she added, “by earning their degrees here, our students can save so much on tuition. Some graduate debt-free.”
A four-year degree can be earned at West for under $10,000. By contrast, for four years, a student will pay approximately $23,000 to attend a California State University or over $55,000 to attend one of the University of California campuses. The $0 Tuition Promise Program provides additional savings for West students. First-time freshmen of any age or income who are California residents may qualify to pay no tuition for the first two years of study.
The community colleges’ Baccalaureate Degree Programs, which began in 2014, became permanent in 2021 when Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 927. The bill allows for an expansion of up to 30 new bachelor’s degree programs each year.
“We are proud of the equity centered leadership of our colleges as they implement this new law. Our bachelor’s degree programs will transform lives. Many students in these programs come from underrepresented communities and have circumstances that don’t allow them to relocate to continue their education at a four-year university,” said Interim CCC Chancellor Daisy Gonzales, PhD. “By expanding the Baccalaureate Degree Program, Californians have increased access to a clear workforce pathway and career opportunities in their local communities.”
According to the Chancellor’s office, this expansion of the Baccalaureate Degree Program is also directly tied to the system’s goals of increasing degree attainment, helping more career education graduates get employed in their field of study, and reducing equity gaps – all of which are laid out in the system’s strategic plan, the Vision for Success. And a recent report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project shows that the California Community Colleges bachelor’s degree program has the potential to address higher education equity gaps.
All California Community College bachelor’s degree options are exclusive to the system and do not duplicate degrees offered at California State University (CSU) or University of California (UC) campuses.
When WLAC was given the special advantage of being able to award a Bachelor’s degree for Dental Hygiene, they were among only a few community colleges in California to have that status. With the ability to offer two degrees, WLAC moves into a unique position.