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MiraCosta chosen to offer four-year biotech degree

REGION— MiraCosta Community College received initial approval to start a pilot baccalaureate program during the California Community Colleges Board of Governors meeting Tuesday.

Of the 112 community colleges in the state, 15 were chosen to run a pilot four-year program.

“This is an historic moment not just for California’s community colleges, but also for MiraCosta College,” said MiraCosta College Superintendent and President Sunny Cooke.

The biotechnology degree will prepare students for careers in the manufacturing sector of biotechnology, according to Lorie Nolte, MiraCosta’s public information officer.

Students will be also be trained for technical and quality assurance/control-related positions, Nolte said.

The program is required to be running by 2017 but some districts may start the program as early as fall 2015.

One of the state requirements is that the program meets a regional work force need.

MiraCosta officials said many North County biotech companies have approached school officials expressing a need for more trained workers.

“Due to our location and our relationships with local biotechnology companies, MiraCosta College is uniquely positioned to meet this biotechnology workforce need,” said Dr. Cooke.

The college has offered biotechnology courses since 1990 and opened a dedicated facility in 2006 to train students in bioprocessing curriculum.
Superintendent Cooke said the existence of the biotechnology program will lay the groundwork for the four-year degree.

“The biomanufacturing baccalaureate program will help fulfill an unmet workforce need for the greater San Diego region,” said Dr. Cooke. “It builds on an already exemplary Biotechnology Program and is responsive to the local need for trained manufacturing and production technicians in North County.”

San Diego County is among the top three life science clusters in the country, behind Boston and San Francisco.

“Our proposal for a degree program in biomanufacturing is incredibly important to our region and, specifically, North County San Diego,” said Mike Fino, MiraCosta College biological sciences instructor.

He said the jobs in the bio manufacturing industry are well paid.

“Objectively, this is a remarkably worthy degree program that is industry-responsive with well-paid, in-demand career paths within an industry segment that is one of the largest in the nation,” Fino said.

Officials estimate the four-year program will cost students about $10,000, which is half the price of a degree offered by a Cal State school.

Another requirement of the program is that it can’t offer a four-year degree already offered at a Cal State school.

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors will take a second vote to finalize their decision in March.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges also must approve the program.

The only other community college in San Diego that was approved was San Diego Mesa College for a health information management degree.