SDCCD trustees reaffirm commitment to community college bachelor’s degrees

Interim Chancellor Greg Smith’s first trustees meeting demonstrates solidarity amid opposition from CSUs


Diego Bethea, Phoebe Truong, Allen Kuo and Julia Kogan receive their awards by board member Maria Nieto Senou on May 11, 2023. Photo by Shamere Grimes/City Times Media

Shamere Grimes, Multimedia Reporter

Members of the San Diego Community College District Board of Trustees reaffirmed their commitment to supporting baccalaureate programs at community colleges at their May 11 meeting despite recent opposition from the California State University system.

Around 25 individuals from the various institutions that make up the district sat in rows of five at the meeting, which was held in Mission Valley and live-streamed on YouTube.

In October 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 927 into law, which allowed for the development of bachelor’s degree programs at the community college level.

However, the CSU system and some members of the legislature, including Assemblymember Mike Fong and Senator Josh Newman, voiced concerns and are requesting a pause on applications for such programs.

Mesa College offers a bachelor’s in Health information Management. Starting in fall 2024, City College will begin its bachelor’s program in Cyber Defense and Analysis.

SDCCD Acting Chancellor Greg Smith wanted to push for a resolution suggested by Trustee Mary Graham to reaffirm their commitment to these programs, citing actions from the Civil Rights Project at UCLA and racial statistics.

“Expanding access to providing baccalaureate programs expands access for students who otherwise would not go to CSU or UC,” Smith said. “We are not competing for students and most critically those students tend to be Black and Hispanic/Latinx from communities that have been historically underserved by all of our education systems.” 

The resolution passed unanimously.

THE KNOWLEDGE INDUSTRY: Learn more about the movement to bring bachelor’s degrees to community colleges. Read the interactive stories and listen to the podcasts.

It was the first meeting since the abrupt resignation of former Chancellor Carlos Cortez, and also the first where Smith was in the lead role.

Cortez resigned to take care of family in May

Vice Chancellor Susan Topham introduced a new certificate of performance program for San Diego City College in electric manufacturing. The certificate provides students with the skills and knowledge to work in the field of manufacturing engineering technology.  

“What is especially noteworthy about this certificate of performance is that it was developed in response to the Advisory Board and is supported by the Kearny High School EID Cohort grant,” Topham said.

Board member Craig Milgrim voiced his support for the certificate, citing the importance of STEM subjects not only for students but also for the workforce.

“People forget that this STEM education, in addition to workforce training, also introduces students to the world of education,” Milgrim said.

An article written at Columbia University suggests the number of college students who have a STEM educational background and enter STEM careers are a priority, as is the need to create a diverse population of STEM workers. 

The motion passed unanimously.

Student trustees were awarded commemorative plaques for their hard work as representatives of their respective schools and to say farewell, as this was their final term in the role.

Four students, one from each college, served a one-year term filling the student trustee position on a rotating basis.

Diego Bethea from City College, Phoebe Truong from San Diego Mesa College, Allen Kuo from Miramar College and Julia Kogan from the College of Continuing Education were presented their awards by board member Maria Nieto Senour and gave their appreciation to the members of the board for working with them to provide new opportunities for community college students.

“Being able to go in as a person and experience different things from different mentors was a great experience,” Bethea said.

Added Kuo: “As a STEM major this is not something that I ever thought I would be doing,” Kuo said. “People who are studying the same things as me tend to stray away from politics and advocacy work, so I was definitely put out of my comfort zone.”