SAN LUIS OBISPO – Allan Hancock College and Cuesta College are partnering on a campaign to share how both colleges can meet local workforce needs by offering four-year degrees under the California Community College baccalaureate program.     

The colleges’ leaders were joined by students and representatives from the business, education, and nonprofit industries in launching the UnitED Central Coast campaign on Oct. 5 on Hancock’s Santa Maria campus.  

During the joint information session, the colleges shared details about their plans to bring four-year degrees to their colleges (one for each institution) and how the vibrant economies of Northern Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County would equally benefit from a better-equipped and more dynamic workforce if baccalaureate degrees were available from Allan Hancock College and Cuesta College. 

“The Central Coast is a higher education desert. With no affordable and accessible state universities in our region, students are forced to choose whether to prioritize family obligations over education or obtain the funding to uproot and move far from home to complete a bachelor’s degree,” said Hancock Superintendent/President Kevin G. Walthers, Ph.D. “Both our colleges feel that efforts to address the issue and create sustainable baccalaureate programs in the region have languished.”  

Cuesta College is proposing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, which will provide the required degree for students seeking careers in teaching, education, or working with children in various other roles. In SLO County alone, almost 100 new teachers are needed each year to address K-12 shortfalls. 

Hancock is proposing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Professional Studies. The applied career technical education program would provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to compete and succeed in an evolving job market. 

“This statewide program was created to make it easier and more affordable for community college students to get a baccalaureate degree and be eligible for a broader array of employment opportunities,” said Cuesta College Superintendent/President Jill Stearns, Ph.D. “Both Cuesta and Hancock believe that local businesses and residents should have the same access to an affordable four-year degree as most Californians do in other parts of the state.” 

Both colleges plan to submit applications for the degree programs to the California Community College Chancellor’s office, including letters of support from the community. Since 2017, community colleges across the state have successfully launched baccalaureate programs to fill local education gaps. The next window of opportunity to apply with the state is January 13, 2024. Unfortunately, the process is not quick. Approval may not come until late 2024, meaning the earliest the program could start would be Fall 2025.   

Both colleges ended the meeting by calling on Central Coast business owners, educators, and elected officials to submit letters of support for the proposed programs by Nov. 14. More information about submitting the letters of support and the UnitED Central Coast campaign can be found at   

PHOTO: Cuesta College Superintendent / President Dr. Jill Stearns and Allan Hancock College Superintendent / President Dr. Kevin Walthers present at the launch of UnitED Central Coast, a campaign to meet local workforce needs by offering four-year degrees under the California Community College baccalaureate program.