At first glance, a four-year degree at a community college appears to be a cost-efficient alternative to the loads of debt that haunts students as they toss and turn in bed thinking about their future. However, like life, this program is not perfect. Completing this degree does not ensure a job. “Proponents of the degrees say the programs could provide the state with thousands of workers in technical fields at a lower price,” wrote Jason Song of the Los Angeles Times. First of all, these four-year degrees are only available in limited technical fields. There won’t be a student with bachelor’s in biology from PCC applying to medical school anytime in the near future. These bachelor degrees are targeted at more specific fields like dental hygiene or automotive technology. That’s not to say the degree cannot help you get a job, but like most degrees, they’re only worth the work the student has put in. Unfortunately, not all degrees are created equal. When picking majors, students consider the possible job outlooks each degree can offer. Majors like business, biology, economics, and even English offer specific training in a certain field, but where they differ is their flexibility. Bachelor degrees are often viewed as general education by employers and serves to prove that the student is well-versed and flexible. Although, it could be argued a degree an engineering is highly specialized like technical degrees and successful, the degree can be stretched farther than a technical degree could. Engineering is well-known as a rigorous course where if a student has somehow survived with a GPA over 3.0, they’re golden. Degrees in engineering and the sciences garner a respect from employers since students graduating with the degree illustrate that they are willing to and can handle a strenuous workload. As such, even if an engineer were to apply for a job not relating to his major, he could still be considered due to the reputation of the degree.
These degrees command respect. USA Today interviewed Alyssa Banuelos, a student at West Point University, and she had this to say: “Community colleges get a lot of bad flack here because so many people attend them and the California education system is in shambles,” she told the newspaper. “But this really could be a great option for students from low-income households and I’m sure once the program starts, all the kinks would be worked out and rival that of any four-year school.” Four-year degrees can become a bridge that improves the reputation of community colleges, but it would have to be grander than the Golden Gate Bridge. Community colleges are not well-respected. Employers know that it doesn’t take an aerospace engineer to sign up for classes at PCC and as such they would be wary when the name of a community college pops up on the résumé. Although the applicant could be a genius, the employer does not know that. It’s natural to judge people, and in a sea of résumés, that’s all employers have the time for. While a bachelor’s in the technical degree can land a job in its intended field, what’s to stop other students from simply grabbing an Associate’s at the same school or even heading online. A four-year degree does look better and seem to separate itself from those other options, but how much will it be respected. As a new product, employers will not have an idea how to value the degree. Although the student has spent more time studying the field, how can employers trust that they are superior? They cannot. A sensible employer will place more weight into this four-year degree, but as the credibility of the degree is called into question, it is not strictly necessary. The applicant will be weighed against others that have two-year degrees in the same small field and the winner will be the most qualified. The bachelor’s degree today is becoming the high school diploma of yesterday. However, this bachelor’s degree is half of yesterday’s high school diploma. These degrees hold weight, but they are not efficient. “Under the legislation, students earning their baccalaureates would pay an additional $84 per unit for upper-division courses on top of the regular per-unit fee of $46 per unit, for a total of $132,” wrote Lisa Leff of The Washington Times. “The cost, however, would still be far less than the $220 and $270 per credit now charged by Cal State and UC campuses…” Community colleges will also raise the cost of units for this four-year degree. It is projected that completing this degree will cost about $10,000, which is about half the cost of a bachelor’s at a Cal State. On paper, it seems to save the student $10,000. Again though, the degree is inflexible and focused on a specific field and may not be well-respected. Not to mention competition with people with two year degrees and others with the same four year degree pumping out of the community colleges. The degree is not as welcoming to a change in fields like more common four year degrees like economics, and as such would end up as a huge loss in time and money. Then it’d be back to school.