In a high-ceilinged classroom, bright sun poking through the blinds and reflecting off the whiteboard, eight students lug heavy textbooks to their desks and prepare for this afternoon’s lesson: proteins.
It’s an unusually small group for a bachelor’s degree-level course in biology. At four-year universities, classes like this are often taught in large and impersonal lecture halls, and might have hundreds of students.
But this is not a university. There aren’t any dorms, the low-rise buildings on the campus are largely basic and utilitarian, and most of the other students are studying toward associate’s — not bachelor’s — degrees.
It’s St. Petersburg College, formerly St. Petersburg Junior College, one of an increasing number of community colleges around the country that have started offering four-year bachelor’s degrees in fields for which there is high job demand.
Critics and supporters of the trend say alternately that it is helping fill an important social need most universities aren’t, or that it’s an ego-driven, money-wasting cry for prestige and respect from institutions at the low end of the higher-education hierarchy.
Whatever their motivation, community colleges in 21 states now have the authority to offer bachelor’s degrees, including 25 of the 28 in Florida; St. Petersburg College alone has 25 baccalaureate programs, the most among one-time two-year schools. <Read more.>