Foothill strives to introduce bachelor’s program

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On Jan. 1, a bill granted Foothill College the opportunity to create a four-year bachelor’s degree program. If selected, Foothill will implement a cheaper and larger dental hygiene program than its current two-year program. Photo by Milena Maese-Czeropski.

Foothill College is currently striving to introduce a low-cost bachelor’s degree program after the bill SB 850 went into effect Jan. 1, which gives community colleges affordable alternatives to programs that public California universities offer.

According to the Legislative Counsel of California, the implemented bill gives 15 California community colleges the opportunity to launch a bachelor’s degree program in a specific major that meets local workforce demands and that does not compete with or duplicate programs offered at University of California or California State University schools. 34 community colleges are competing for the 15 spots offered in the bill, which was initially approved by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2014.

According to Foothill’s Dental Hygiene Program Director Phyllis Spragge, if Foothill is one of the 15 community colleges chosen to offer a bachelor’s degree program, administrators will create their first four-year dental hygiene program. Andrea Hanstein, Foothill director of marketing and public relations, said Foothill would implement this pilot program by 2016.

The state chancellor’s office will judge the colleges’ proposals and consult with UC and CSU schools to decide the chosen 15 community colleges. According to California’s Legislative Counsel, the accepted colleges will only initially be able to offer one program, which will have to pass through the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and find a method of payment for the program.

According to Palo Alto High School college advisor Sandra Cernobori, on average, 12 to 15 percent of Paly seniors apply to Foothill each year. If created, the dental hygiene program would provide Paly graduates the opportunity to enroll in a baccalaureate degree at Foothill for the first time.

Senior Grete Saue is planning to go to Foothill and would consider the new program.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Saue said. “It opens up new opportunities for people who may not have the money, want to stay local or even need to spend the extra money that universities require.”

Currently no UC or CSU university teaches dental hygiene, and the course is only available through three private universities in California. The cost of tuition for the program at these private colleges ranges from $43,000 to $70,000 per year. If Foothill is granted the opportunity to create this program, it will be offered at rates significantly lower than those of private universities, according to Spragge.

“The tuition for the pilot program baccalaureate degree programs will be higher than the usual community college fees, but lower than CSU or UC fees,” Spragge said. “It is estimated that a bachelor’s degree under this pilot program could cost about $10,000.”

According to Spragge, Foothill chose the dental hygiene program due to the vitality of dental hygiene in the job market, the need for dental hygiene care in California and the strength of Foothill’s current dental hygiene program. According to Foothill College’s website, its dental hygiene program has led to consistent rankings as one of the top 10 community colleges in the United States for dental hygiene. Its website says that its current two-year dental hygiene program includes curriculum that covers the basic sciences, oral anatomy, public health, nutrition, clinical dental hygiene, periodontics and radiology.

An average of 100 students apply each year for 24 spots in the current program, according to Spragge. However, the competition for a spot in the program would be lessened with the addition of a four-year program.

“Even though we only take 24 students a year, we’re looking at this bachelor degree program to be larger in number and in scope,” Spragge said.

The employment rate in the dental hygiene field is presumed to grow by 38 percent through 2020, significantly faster than other occupations, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is attributed to an increased demand for dental care and a greater use of dental hygienists.

For more information about Foothill’s current dental hygiene program, you can visit Foothill’s official site.