By John Olivares
Higher education will change in Fall 2017 once Santa Ana College begins offering a baccalaureate occupational studies program recently approved by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors.
The BOG’s action is in response to SB 850, allowing the establishment of a pilot bachelor’s degree program at up to 15 community college districts. These are in fields of study not offered by the California State University or the University of California systems.
The original proposal included 15 colleges, but was reduced to 12 by the BOG because one was under sanction and the other two require CSU and UC approval.
SAC currently offers an associates degree in occupational therapy assistance and will begin offering a B.S. in Fall 2017.
The first graduating class would be in 2019.
Occupational therapy assistants, lifestyle coaches, rehabilitation liaisons, activities directors, and behavioral aides are among the projected jobs a student with a bachelor’s in OTA is likely to attain.
In 2014, Californians working as occupational therapy assistants were making about $33 an hour. Those working in Orange County earned around $35 an hour.
“This offers a whole new opportunity for students in Santa Ana and Orange County,” SAC President Erlinda Martinez said.
When determining what bachelor’s program would be offered at SAC job, availability within the region was considered, as well as how duplicative the program was, Martinez said.
A minimum of 124 semester credits is among the requirements of the B.S. in Occupational Studies. Students will need to complete 75 units of lower-division coursework in the OTA program at a cost of $46 a unit.
The 49 additional upper-division units will cost an extra $84, for a total of $130 per unit during the last two years of the program.
In total, the cost of the four-year program, excluding books and other costs, would be about $10,000.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity for both my department and the campus,” said Michelle Parolise, Occupational Therapy Assistant Coordinator. “The program will offer the OTA students an opportunity for advancement that they didn’t have before.”
Other departments are being tweaked to offer more advanced courses to correlate with the new program.
An anticipated 300 students are expected to join the program by the time the pilot period ends in 2023.