After a yearlong slog, San Diego City College’s proposed bachelor’s degree in cyberdefense and analysis has finally been approved. The program was one of 10 in the first cohort of degrees allowed by new law AB 927, which opened the door to bachelor’s degrees at community colleges so long as they meet certain stipulations.
At the San Diego Community College District’s board of trustees meeting on Thursday, María-José Zeledón Perez, a representative from City College’s academic senate, announced the approval of the degree, which elicited applause from the trustees. “This is a legacy, this is social justice, and this is social justice in higher education,” Perez said.
City’s degree was one of three held up by objections from the CSU system, which claimed the programs were duplicative of existing degrees offered at CSUs, something AB 927 does not allow for. The already-approved degrees were simply signed off on by the president of the community college’s board of governors.
And though officials from both the community college and CSU systems agreed that AB 927 allowed for degrees to be approved over the objections of the CSU system, the community college chancellor’s office planned to bring the degrees CSUs still objected to up for a full board vote at Monday’s meeting of the board of governors as a show of support.
In December, CSU officials told Voice of San Diego that they no longer had duplication concerns with City’s degree. But, community college officials told us, the CSUs still had not formally withdrawn their earlier objections. According to City College professor David Kennemer, who crafted the college’s cyberdefense program, the CSUs did formally withdraw their objection in mid-December, which cleared the way for the president of the California Community Colleges board of governors to approve the program.
This will be the first bachelor’s degree offered at City College in the school’s more than 100-year history.
“We spent many years working to develop a bachelor’s degree that affords our students access to above livable wage careers while staying local to San Diego City College in a high quality yet affordable education,” City College President Ricky Shabazz wrote in a statement to Voice of San Diego. “This degree aligns with our focus on social justice and diversifying tech fields by training veterans, first generation college students, low income, women, and people of color into high demand careers.”
Kennemer plans to spend the next year working on implementing the program, which will operate under a cohort model, before accepting its first students in fall 2024.
“The majority of these students aren’t going to transfer to a computer science program at a university,” Kennemer said. “They’re not going to be able to afford private schools and won’t necessarily be successful in online schools. So, we really want to get this right for every student that wants to be in this program.”
But despite the eventual approval of City’s degree, officials from the college have repeatedly advocated for changes to the state’s community college bachelor’s program, specifically arguing that the stipulation that newly created degrees cannot duplicate those already offered by the state’s four-year universities, is onerous and counteracts calls for greater equity in education.
That stipulation meant that if only one public four-year university on the other side of the state offered a degree, it was off-limits for community colleges, regardless of the local demand of workers in that field – something AB 927 required colleges to prove their programs spoke to. This is especially frustrating to community college officials because many public universities in the state simply don’t have space for the number of students who would like to attend them. But community college officials, like Shabazz, believe that stipulation won’t be around for much longer.
“The way the law is written will change in our lifetime, because it’s the right thing to do,” Shabazz said. “Community colleges are really targeting a different student than those who would traditionally go to a UC or CSU and there’s no legitimate reason other than academic elitism and outdated bureaucracies for this (stipulation) to even exist.”