Say No to the Bachelor’s Degree

In several states, legislatures are attempting to deal with the increased demand for college, not to mention the demand for education for many jobs, by converting community colleges into four-year schools. Later this month Michigan will vote on legislation to allow Michigan community colleges to grant four-year degrees. Not so fast.

According to an editorial in the Detroit News, this isn’t a good idea for the state:

Four-year schools are more expensive, for both taxpayers and students. Their costs are higher because they need more faculty with advanced degrees and support services. Community colleges almost always have far lower graduation rates, as well.

So while they may appear to be a comparatively inexpensive alternative to four-year universities, the cost of what is called “degree production” must be considered, says Ed St. John, a University of Michigan professor of higher education. When that is considered, community colleges often come up short. Michigan can afford neither lower graduation rates nor or higher costs associated with community colleges moving toward four-year institutions.

The trouble is that while community college might seem like a good place for practical, job-focused bachelor’s degrees, in fact community colleges don’t even do a terribly good job preparing people for two year degrees. Why would they do a better job with more responsibilities?

The paper recommends altering four-year public schools in the state to allow them to open branch campuses and provide instruction, and bachelor’s degrees, in high-needs fields like nursing, cement technology, maritime technology and culinary arts.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer