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Santa Monica College among First in State to Offer 4-Year Degrees

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By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

May 19, 2015 -- Santa Monica College made history Monday when it became the last of a select group of California community colleges allowed to offer four-year degrees.

SMC's four-year Interaction Design program is now among 15 so-called baccalaureate degree programs approved for the first time in the state by the California Community College's Board of Governors, which announced the final three campuses Monday. Twelve others received the go-ahead in March.

Destined to be housed inside a new $89 million state-of-the-art facility on the 30,150-student campus, SMC’s new IxD courses will offer a host of industry standard software and equipment to educate students in the booming field of interactive digital design, including graphic and web design and 3-D printing.

Selected along with SMC on Monday were Rio Hondo College's 4-year automotive technology program and Solano Community College's biotech program. Thirty-four campuses underwent rigorous screening by a team of examiners for selection to the historic pilot program that highlights the evolving role of today's community colleges.

“The community colleges are uniquely positioned to deal with the flexible and changing world,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. “I think we have to get a very broad sense of what higher education is, and higher education now is breaking free of the more traditional parameters, constraints and images.”

SMC's baccalaureate program is unique -- only two universities in the state offer four-year degrees in interactive design and both are private institutions, said Grace Smith, SMC's spokesperson.

Comparatively, SMC's degree will be a bargain.

“The programs at these two universities cost around $160,000,” she said. “The four-year degree at SMC will cost just over $10,000.”

Dozens of heavyweight high tech firms lobbied in support of the local program, including industry “giants” Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Disney, Fox TV and Sony Pictures Entertainment.

“This decision cements our place in the greater L.A. entertainment and tech industry,” said SMC Board of Trustee Chairman Rob Rader.

Under the law, originally proposed as a bill by state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, the four-year programs must be up and running by at least the 2017-18 school year, but districts can start as soon as this fall.

SMC officials said they will post suggested lower-division courses for the program, which can be found at Upper-division courses for the last two years of the program will start being offered in fall 2016, Smith said.

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