The California Community Colleges (CCC) play vital and diverse roles in the state’s public higher education system.
In 1960, California’spromised publicly subsidized higher education to every Californian willing and able to benefit from it. But the Master Plan also limited enrollment in the California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems. Students graduating in the top one-eighth of each year’s high school class are eligible to attend a UC campus, and those in the top one-third are eligible for CSU. The community colleges are responsible for meeting the remaining demand for public postsecondary education.
The Master Plan also established guiding principles for CCC programs. The colleges were to offer transfer, vocational, and liberal arts courses, with each local site having the flexibility to develop its programs based on local needs. Over time, the state added additional responsibilities to this charge, including remedial education and targeted workforce development programs.
For about 50 years, these imperatives have shaped the education that the community colleges offer and the students that they serve. The campuses are quite different, reflecting the wide variation between urban and rural communities in California, the state’s regional differences in ethnic diversity, and its uneven population growth. Today, California’s 112 community colleges offer an exceptionally wide variety of educational opportunities. Degree or certificate programs vary, and students pursue many different objectives.
Two-year associate degrees are offered in a variety of fields and subjects.
Transfer courses—which sometimes lead to an associate degree—prepare students to transfer to bachelor's degree programs at four-year universities.
Certificate programs in the arts, sciences, occupational, and technical fields prepare students for careers in graphic arts, nursing, bookkeeping, firefighting, auto mechanics, and computer technology, to name a few.
Continuing education courses offer adults opportunities to enrich their lives or change careers.
Remedial (or basic skills) courses support those who arrive unprepared for college-level work or simply need additional math and English skills for their jobs or personal lives.
English language and citizenship exam–preparation courses help immigrants integrate into society.
- Other programs allow students to earn college credit while still enrolled in high school.