When the Bachelor’s Degree Isn’t Allowed

Offering bachelor’s degrees through community colleges has lately become a popular tactic in many states’ efforts to increase the number of college-educated citizens without paying much more money for the improvement.

Community colleges in 17 states, including Florida, Nevada, Texas, and Washington, are now offering bachelor’s degrees, mostly in practical, and essentially vocational areas like nursing or “cement technology.”

But it turns out, at least in Michigan, it’s probably illegal. According to an article by Dave Murray in the Grand Rapids Press:

[Leonard] Wolfe, head of government policy practice for the Dykema-Gossett firm, told [Michigan state] senators on Wednesday that the constitution clearly spells out the roles, governance, and funding methods for K-12 districts, community colleges and state universities.

The constitution… states that colleges offering two-year degrees have locally elected boards, collect local property taxes and have oversight from the state Board of Educations. To offer four-year degrees… colleges would essentially have to become universities, with boards appointed by the governor, no set boundaries and no property tax revenue.

But then, changing the funding structure would undercut the whole reason to have community colleges offer bachelor’s degrees, which is that they can operate so cheaply.

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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