California Community Colleges Respond to Call for Higher Educational Standards by Developing 4-Year RT Programs

California community colleges can expect a massive shift in their educational quality over the next few years as the state legislature approves new measures that will allow more community colleges to offer 4-year degrees. Increasing demands, particularly in the medical field, for higher education and technical know-how are the primary motivator for the change.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will need 1-million more people will bachelor’s degrees by the year 2025 to take the place of a massive retiring population, while also fulfilling the expectations for heightened standards in education. In response, the state legislature set up a series of new standards for community colleges that would help them establish more 4-year programs.

To qualify, a community college must already have an accredited associate’s degree in a field designated as “high need,” and provide evidence that local employers need people in that profession.

One of the highest need fields identified is respiratory therapy. Changes over the years in technology and knowledge have upped the requirements substantially, with many practicing respiratory therapist’s going back to school to complete bachelor’s degrees.

Furthermore, California’s serious air pollution issues have led to a surplus of respiratory issues. Nationwide, the American Association for Respiratory care predicts that 80% of respiratory therapists nationwide will need to hold bachelor’s degrees by 2022 to meet the demand for practitioners capable of providing more advanced treatments.

A recently developed RT bachelor’s program at Modesto Junior College, which is already receiving applications, will start graduating associate’s degree transfer students in 2017. As more programs are approved, the million job gap will grow ever smaller, and the state of respiratory health in California will improve in response to better educated respiratory therapists.