Can You Get a Bachelor’s Degree at a Community College?

Find out what type of bachelor's degree programs are offered at community colleges.
In recent years, many states have started to pass laws that allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees as part of their curriculum. The core reasons behind this are to meet the ever-growing workforce demands and increase access to educational and career advancement opportunities.
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Allowing students to pursue bachelor’s degrees at community colleges opens doors for many students looking to pursue their higher education with lesser financial constraints. Research shows that it could also prove to be a great opportunity for non-traditional students such as adult workers looking to earn a degree while managing other commitments.

However, because community colleges do not traditionally offer bachelor’s degrees, the notion was initially met with great criticism. Concerns mainly revolved around community colleges competing with local four-year colleges and the financial impact the decision would have on community colleges and the state itself. 

We have created an in-depth guide to help you get a better understanding of what it means to pursue a bachelor’s degree at community college and which states have laws that allow you to do so.

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Do community colleges offer bachelor's degrees?

Community colleges typically offer associate’s degrees and certificate programs. These are comparatively shorter programs that have 2-4 semesters, depending on the course and college itself. (Here is an article to help you get a better understanding of how long it takes to complete community college.) 

However, over the years, community colleges have started to offer bachelor’s degrees as an option. 

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 850, sponsored by then-state Senator Marty Block. The bill gave 15 colleges permission to offer bachelor’s degrees in certain fields. 

Since the bill has passed there has been a drastic increase, with now over 24 states that offer bachelor’s programs at community college at some level. 

“Community colleges are the founding pillars of higher education; offering critical baccalaureate degree programs will create greater accessibility to higher education,” said Jose Medina (D-Riverside), Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “The baccalaureate degree program will play a pivotal role in building back our State’s economy.”

You might be interested in: How to get hired from a community college

How are they different from universities?

One thing that separates the two programs is that community colleges are not trying to be exactly like most four-year colleges. 

Most community colleges offering bachelor’s programs are offering it as an extension to their associate’s degree. This means that a student would have to complete their associate’s degree first, in order to be eligible for a bachelor’s program at that same community college. 

Community colleges also have limited bachelor’s programs available. This is because they prefer to offer degrees that can place students directly into the workforce. In tune with traditional community college values, these bachelor’s programs are profession-orientated. 

The most common kinds of bachelor’s degrees offered at community colleges include specific fields like nursing, information technology, and radiology.

Related: Do Community Colleges Have Majors and Minors?

List of states that allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees and their conditions

States that have community colleges that offer bachelor's programs have a variety of different laws and approaches. Different states have different types of institutions and programs. 

We have compiled a list of the 24 states that now authorize bachelor's degrees at community colleges. 

Note: Keep in mind that each state's laws regarding bachelor’s degrees in community colleges differ. Before applying, make sure to visit the community college's website for more details.

Arizona

Governor Doug Ducey signed legislation on May 4th, 2021, allowing community colleges in Arizona to offer four-year degrees. The new law permits all community colleges in the state to offer four-year bachelor’s programs. 

“To suddenly say that everyone has an opportunity to pursue a four-year baccalaureate through an open-door institution should be something that should be celebrated across our state, across our country,” said Steven R. Gonzales, interim chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District.

Community colleges such as Maricopa Community College will be offering four-year degrees in fields such as Healthcare, Information Technology, Public Safety Administration, and Education, starting in the Fall semester of 2023.

Related: How much does community college cost in Arizona?

California

Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that allows community college students to earn bachelor’s degrees in certain workforce fields that are not offered by the University of California or California State University. 

“This is a historic decision that sets a bold direction for California’s 116 community colleges, enabling them to meet the workforce needs of local communities in an accessible, affordable, and high-quality manner,” said Dr. Constance M. Carroll, ex-chancellor of the San Diego Community College District. 

Click here for a list of all the community colleges offering a bachelor’s degree program in California. 

Colorado

In 2018, as a response to the statewide shortage of nursing professionals with Bachelor's degrees, the Colorado General Assembly passed HB 18-1086. 

This allows colleges in The Colorado Community College System to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in Nursing programs. 

Since then, many new bachelor’s programs have been introduced at local community colleges in Colorado. The Colorado Mountain College offers bachelor’s degrees in Nursing, Business, Education, Leadership & Management, and Sustainability.

Delaware

Most community colleges in Delaware have partnerships with universities, allowing students to pursue bachelor-level degrees from those universities while studying at college. 

Delaware Technical Community College is one of the few community colleges in Delaware to offer an independent bachelor’s degree

Florida

In 2001, Florida passed a law allowing community colleges to offer bachelor's degree programs in high-demand workforce fields, such as teaching and nursing.

According to a study by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 18 out of 28 community colleges in Florida have been approved to offer at least one four-year bachelor’s degree. 

South Florida State College offers both Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees. To be eligible for the Bachelor’s program, students should earn an associate degree prior to admission. 

Georgia

The state colleges in Georgia are designed to have both associate-level education and certain bachelor’s programs (depending on the workforce needs). 

  • Middle Georgia State University (previously known as Macon State College) offers more than 18 bachelor’s degree programs
  • Dalton State College offers more than 12 bachelor’s degree programs. 
  • Five other community colleges are approved to offer bachelor’s degrees.

Hawai’i

According to the meeting minutes of The University Of Hawai‘i Board Of Regents “Regent Nunokawa moved to approve the program proposal as submitted, allowing Maui Community College to offer the Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Business and Information Technology (ABIT), effective Fall 2003, subject to the Regents’ policy on provisional academic programs and as presented in President’s Memorandum No. 20 (Agenda), Item A-6, dated June 20, 2003. Regent McElrath seconded the motion which was unanimously carried.”

Idaho

Laws in Idaho allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees under certain conditions. College of Southern Idaho was the first community college to receive approval. 

Indiana

In 2004, a law passed in Indiana, allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, under certain circumstances.

Louisiana

In 2001, a law passed in Louisiana, allowing community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, under certain circumstances. In Louisiana, a limited number of community colleges were authorized to offer bachelor’s degrees. Those colleges have now become baccalaureate colleges. 

Michigan

In December 2012, Michigan became the twenty-first state to allow its community colleges to offer bachelor’s degree programs. 

“I don’t see community colleges offering baccalaureate degrees in subjects like history. I see us offering degrees to meet workforce demand,” says Michael Hansen, President of the Michigan Community College Association. 

Alpena Community College offers a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Systems Technology and also has a variety of partnership bachelor’s programs with different universities. 

Minnesota 

Most community colleges in Minnesota have partnerships with universities, allowing students to pursue bachelor-level degrees from those universities while studying at college.

“Our Partnership Programs allow students to earn select bachelor’s degrees, licenses, and advanced credentials from Minnesota State Universities and other private universities, on the Coon Rapids and Cambridge campuses of Anoka-Ramsey Community College” 

Missouri

In 2018, a law was passed in Missouri, allowing community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees in certain cases. 

On March 3rd, 2021, Missouri’s Coordinating Board for Higher Education approved plans for Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield and St. Louis Community College to offer bachelor's degree programs. 

Nevada

The Great Basin College was the first community college in Nevada to gain approval to offer bachelor’s degrees. They offer over 13 bachelor’s degree programs in a variety of workforce fields. 

Other community colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees include:

North Dakota

North Dakota has very few options for community colleges that also offer bachelor’s degrees. 

Bismarck State College offers 3 bachelor’s degree programs:

  • Automation Management 
  • Cybersecurity and Information Technology (BAS)
  • Energy Management (BAS)

Ohio

According to state law, community colleges can apply to offer applied bachelor’s degrees. There are currently two community colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees. 

Clark State College

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Addictions and Integrated Treatment Services

Lorain County Community College

  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Smart Industrial Automated Systems Engineering Technology

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has very few options for community colleges that also offer bachelor’s degrees. 

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology-Okmulgee, are some examples of associate-level colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees programs. 

Oregon

The state Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 in 2019, which allows community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees, in certain cases. Community colleges must present their case and prove that the program they’re introducing is needed in the workforce. However, most community colleges are not actively adding bachelor’s programs to their curriculums yet. 

“Right now, we are not actively exploring a (four-year degree program) because we don’t see a clear option to explore but we will always be open to having that conversation with local business and industry,” says Laurie Chesley, President of Central Oregon Community College. 

South Carolina

In 2018, under House Bill 4931, technical colleges were given permission to offer bachelor’s degrees in advanced manufacturing technology, in certain cases. 

Programs must be approved by the South Carolina Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and South Carolina Commission on Higher Education.

Texas

In 2002, community colleges in Texas proposed adding Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) and Bachelor of Applied Technology (BAT) degrees to their curriculum. They argued that four-year institutions were offering programs that were not sufficient for the needs of adult workers. 

In 2003, the legislature approved a pilot project that allowed certain community colleges to offer limited BAS and BAT degrees. 

In 2007, a law passed, granting community colleges permanent approval to offer these programs. 

The three colleges that gained approval were: 

Utah

In 1992, Utah Valley Community College (UVCC) gained approval to offer bachelor’s degrees. Eventually, in 2008, UVCC became Utah Valley University. It now offers over 53 bachelor’s programs.

In 1999, Dixie Junior College gained approval to offer bachelor’s degrees. Now known as Dixie State College of Utah (DSCU), DSCU offers over 16 bachelor’s programs.

Washington

In 2005, the state approved a pilot project in which four community colleges were allowed to offer certain bachelor’s degrees. This was to cater to the needs of the community that were not being met by other colleges. 

Due to the success of the pilot program, the state is now approving more and more bachelor's degrees.  

The colleges that gained approval were:

West Virginia

West Virginia has very few options for community colleges that also offer bachelor’s degrees. Parkersburg Community College is now known as West Virginia University. 

West Virginia University now offers over 11 bachelor’s degrees in a variety of workforce fields. 

Wyoming

In 2019, the Wyoming Community College Commission (WCCC) authorized community colleges to offer applied for bachelor’s programs. 

The WCCC is required to report annually to the Legislature on the progress of the bachelor’s programs. The financial impact of offering bachelor’s programs at community colleges is then assessed. 

Western Wyoming Community College offers bachelor’s degrees in business management

Benefits

Now that you have a better idea of which states offer bachelor’s degrees at community college, here is a list of some of the benefits of enrolling in such a program. 

Lower Tuition Costs

On average, tuition costs at community colleges are significantly lower than at most four-year colleges. 

The Education Data Org. reports that the average cost of community college attendance in 2021 is $7,460 total or $1,865 per semester. 

Whereas, the average cost of most four-year institutions in 2021 is $35,720 per student per year. The cost has tripled in 20 years, with an annual growth rate of 6.8%. 

Hence, obtaining a bachelor’s degree at a community college can be a great opportunity for students to pursue their higher education with a lesser financial burden. 

Related: Local Community Colleges: 10 Benefits that Boost Your Advantage

Flexible Schedules 

Community colleges are known for catering to non-traditional students by having a flexible schedule. 

They typically offer day, evening, and weekend classes, giving opportunities to students that are part-time workers and those who have other commitments. Some community colleges also offer online degrees and courses.

Did you know? While very rare, some community colleges offer master's degrees?

Drawbacks

Pursuing your bachelor’s degree from a community college can be an amazing opportunity for some. However, there are a few drawbacks to consider before making a final decision. 

Fewer Degree Opportunities

Over the years, more and more community colleges have started introducing bachelor’s programs into their curriculum. 

However, they are still considerably less as compared to traditional four-year colleges. There are still many states that don’t have laws that permit community colleges from offering bachelor’s degrees. 

Moreover, in the states that have community colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees, there are very limited degree options. This closes doors for many students looking to pursue more non-traditional bachelor’s degrees such as art, history, etc. 

Conclusion

The goal of community colleges offering bachelor’s degrees is not to replace the pre-existing four-year colleges. Rather, it is to cater to the needs and demands of the workforce by providing specialized degrees in healthcare and technology fields. 

Moreover, it gives opportunities to students who would typically be unable to pursue their higher education. 

Whether you choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a community college or not, make sure to do your full research and investigate all your options to make the best decision!


Frequently Asked Questions

Is a bachelor's degree available at Community College?

Bachelor's degree programs at community colleges are designed to fulfill local workforce demands and provide a diverse range of students with access to four-year degrees. Community colleges are permitted to issue bachelor's degrees in 24 states; yet, in most states, only a few institutions offer the programs.

How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree at community college?

It takes at least four years to finish a typical bachelor's degree. However, depending on what you study and how quickly you complete courses, some accelerated community college programs allow you to complete a bachelor's degree in as little as a year.

Why is community college preferable to a four-year university?

Community colleges are frequently less expensive than four-year universities. Students who begin at a community college and subsequently transfer to a university will save thousands of dollars while gaining enough preparation for the academic standards of a four-year institution.

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