Program Director of Cyber Defense and Analysis David Kennemer, left, and Instructional Lab Technician Terrell McClain, right, set up virtual machines outside of a classroom, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Eve McNally/City Times Media
Program Director of Cyber Defense and Analysis David Kennemer, left, and Instructional Lab Technician Terrell McClain, right, set up virtual machines outside of a classroom, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Eve McNally/City Times Media

Much-anticipated bachelor’s degree at City College is here. Applications open now.

City College opens applications for first bachelor’s degree in cyber defense and analysis the same month that Miramar College and Mesa College secure approval to offer new bachelor’s programs

Ernesto Estrada is a truck driver and has been for 20 years. But on select evenings he can be found in a San Diego City College classroom full of fellow students.

This is when Estrada comes to campus for his cyber security class, which he enrolled in to open more doors for a new career. 

“I don’t want to be driving no more,” Estrada said, who is in his early 40s and a resident of Chula Vista. 

Estrada’s career change won’t be the only thing that is new. He may also be one of the first students to earn a bachelor’s degree at City College. 

Beginning in fall 2024, City College will offer a bachelor’s degree in cyber defense and analysis. 

This will mark the first time in City’s 109-year history that students have the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s as a Knight.

The program is one of 33 offered at the 116 community colleges in California. 

City College is the second campus in the district to offer a bachelor’s degree after Mesa College, which secured approval to offer a bachelor’s in health information management under a pilot program in 2015. 

Mesa College was approved to offer its second bachelor’s degree on campus on Oct. 13, expanding their physical therapy assistant program to a four-year degree. 

Miramar College was also approved to offer a bachelor’s in public safety management this month. The program was approved on Oct. 16. and is the first four-year degree offered at the college.

Applications for the Fall 2024 cohort in cyber defense and analysis at City College opened on Oct. 1st and will remain open until March 30. 

According to David Kennemer, the director of the new program, about 40 students already submitted their materials five months in advance. 

Information sessions for the program started in mid-August, the three sessions totaled more than 210 attendees, according to Kennemer. 

Going forward, the cyber defense and analysis department hopes to hold one information session per month.

Estrada is one of those students planning to apply.

To attend a virtual info session or watch a recorded session, students can visit the cyber defense and analysis webpage.  

Initially, Estrada planned on earning an associate degree in cyber security, but later learned City College might actually offer a bachelor’s program in a related field, cyber defense and analysis. 

“When I came and talked to the advisor he (said) we might get approved to get a bachelor’s so I’m like, ‘Oh okay, even better,’” Estrada said.

City College secured approval for the program in Jan. 2023 and City College President Ricky Shabazz announced the new bachelor’s program at convocation earlier this year. 

“We are excited about the already mentioned bachelor’s degree,” Shabazz said. “There are 490 students on the interest list.” 

Since convocation, the number of students on the interest list grew to over 700, leading to the creation of separate lists for respective cohort years, according to Kennemer. 

Students interested in joining the interest list for the Fall 2025 cohort can click here or visit the cyber defense and analysis webpage

Shabazz concluded the announcement by sharing that his own son is interested in attending City College for the bachelor’s program. 

“He’s majoring in (cyber security) and we’re trying to convince him that this is the most affordable high quality education that any student can get anywhere in this country,” said Shabazz. “I’m excited about supporting the student journey.” 

The program is estimated to cost $10,286 for the four years in total, compared to the cost of earning a bachelor’s at a CSU which costs $5,742 per academic year and is expected to rise up to $7,682 per year by 2028-29. UC tuition currently costs $19,236 per academic year for undergraduate students living off campus. 

Excitement is high now, but it hasn’t always been a smooth or predictable ride, according to Kennemer.  

“It’s been a long and emotional journey,” Kennemer said, referring to the process of getting the program approved. 

For Kennemer the journey has been three years in the making since he initially started to conceive of the program, after seeing other community colleges in California successfully implement bachelor’s programs under pilot program SB 850. 

The new program was made possible by Assembly Bill 927, which was signed into law on Oct. 6 2021. 

The assembly bill is a permanent and expanded version of SB 850, a pilot program implemented in 2014 that allowed California community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees

The assembly bill stipulates California community colleges can offer bachelor’s degrees that meet unmet workforce needs and do not contain program curricula which is duplicative of existing programs offered at a CSU or UC.

To listen to City Times coverage of AB 927 here or to read about AB 927 being signed into law click here.

Concerns from the CSUs over duplication delayed the process of approval, according to Kennemer. 

The CSU system claimed the proposed program was duplicative of their curriculum and submitted an objection

“You take a college paper, right, and you read a college paper, typically, they’ll tell you 20-30% (of text similarity is allowed), right? For citations, for quotes,” Kennemer said, using an analogy about plagiarism conventions for academic papers. “There was not even 20 to 30% overlap with any of those programs.” 

Eventually, the CSU system dropped the objection. 

Kennemer designed the cyber defense and analysis degree with a unique emphasis on cyber defense, a specific subset of cyber security. 

“We’re going to focus on critical infrastructure and supply chain, and all this emerging technology, ” Kennemer told City Times in an interview last year. “And focus on the defensive side, and how you can actively defend in real-time.”

Some members of the Academic Senate, Classified Senate, and Associated Students Government were reluctant to welcome the new program for other reasons. 

Those who hesitated to support the program were unsure that it was a good fit with City College’s mission of social justice, according to Kennemer. 

“I wanted to specifically address that,” Kennemer said. 

In response, he incorporated an ethical component in every class that “challenges students to consider how the skills that they’re learning in that class, how they apply them, in terms of impact on society as a whole.”

State Chancellor Sonya Christian praised the influx of new baccalaureate programs across the state at the student media teleconference for California community colleges on Sept. 21.

“Community colleges are stepping up in that space to provide that bachelor’s degree,” Christian  said at the conference.

Christian was referring to the bachelor’s offered in respiratory care which is now approved for six community colleges across the state. 

After a long journey in getting the program implemented, Kennemer looks to students to carry out the responsibility of earning the degree on their end.

“We’ve done our part, right? We went out, we fought for them,” said Kennemer. “Now it’s on the students to … take advantage of the opportunities that we’ve fortunately been able to provide them.” 

In California alone, there are 80,000 job openings for cyber security and over 12,000 of those openings are in San Diego, according to Kennemer. 

“It’s not going to slow down anytime soon,” Kennemer said. 

He calls the field of cyber defense and analysis “AI resilient.”

“AI is only going to increase cyber risk,” Kennemer said. 

The demand for cyber security analysts spans many industries, including healthcare, government, and financial services. 

Estrada is considering using his degree to work for the government and is excited about the idea of being one of the first to earn a bachelor’s at City College. 

“That is something I can brag about,” Estrada said. 

To learn about information sessions and other application resources, students can go to the cyber defense and analysis webpage .  

Interested in learning more? Follow City Times’ coverage of all that lead up to City College being able to offer a bachelor’s in 2024, as well as some of the discussion around equitable and accessible education which remains. Below is a list of which outline this journey 


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