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New degree programs, deans question bar exam scoring

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Major headlines in the education sector so far in 2015 have been the state's pilot program for some community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees, new partnerships between universities and some financial news a locally based education company might rather forget.

Mesa College to offer bachelor’s degree
In March, San Diego Mesa College secured approval from the California Community Colleges board of governors to offer a bachelor’s degree in health information management. A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year set in motion a seven-year pilot program for up to 15 community college districts to offer a single four-year degree, with schools aimed to offer a bachelor's degree program in subjects not currently offered by the University of California or California State University systems. Mesa College said in March that it would start offering classes in the health information management program during the fall 2015 semester. Up to 32 students will be able to enroll each year, with their upper-division coursework costing an additional $84 per unit on top of the normal per-unit rate of $46.

Bridgepoint's revenue, enrollment decline deepens
Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI) reported in early May a 9 percent decrease in revenue during the first quarter of 2015 as compared with the same period the year prior, marking another quarter of declining numbers for the San Diego-based education company. The news followed reports in March of falling revenue and enrollment for all of 2014. Just 10 days after the March report, Bridgepoint announced it had chosen Christopher Henn to be its new executive vice president and CEO. The company also experienced a 14.2 percent drop in total student enrollment from the end of March 2014 to March this year.

Colleges, universities forge partnerships for programs
A number of alliances were made during the first half of the year among higher education institutions around San Diego to offer new or joint educational programs. In February, San Diego State University and UC San Diego partnered to launch a new joint doctoral program in Interdisciplinary Research on Substance Use. Southwestern College announced memorandas of understanding with two Tijuana-based universities to help foster a cross-border educational pathway for students, and in May, a partnership was created between MiraCosta College and Point Loma Nazarene University to enable nursing students who graduate from MiraCosta to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from PLNU without leaving the Oceanside campus.

Auditors give high marks for San Diego Unified bond programs
The annual independent audit for the San Diego Unified School District's capital improvement bond program was released in February, showing that for the sixth consecutive year, the district's program has received the highest opinion auditors can offer for both its financial and performance audits. Proposition S and Proposition Z funds have been used in the district since 2008 and 2012, respectively, to renovate schools around the district. Lee Dulgeroff, chief facilities planning and construction officer for the district, said the lack of any adverse findings is "an achievement for a bond program of this size and complexity.”

Bar exam scoring transparency questioned
Transparency in California bar exam scoring was questioned by local law school deans earlier this year after bar passage rates for the state's law schools were released for tests taken in July 2014. The University of San Diego School of Law and the California Western School of Law produced students who passed the bar at a rate above 71 percent. But Niels Schaumann, dean of the California Western School of Law, said reported late-night software issues in the online essay portion of the exam could have had an effect on student performance in the multiple choice portion the next morning. He and USD School of Law Dean Stephen Ferruolo report trying to get answers as to how scores were determined by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, but said they've had no luck in getting the process revealed.

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