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Santa Monica College Seeks to Launch New design Program

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By Lookout Staff

December 24 -- Santa Monica College has announced it will submit a proposal to offer a Bachelor’s Degree in Interaction Design, or the field of making websites, apps and other technology user-friendly.

The college will submit its plan to the office of Brice W. Harris, Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, officials said in a statement.

Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed into law a bill by Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) to allow 15 community colleges to offer such baccalaureate degrees, a response to high demand for skilled workers in such fields as technology, health and science.

The law, Senate Bill 850, requires the degree not be duplicated at the California State University or University of California systems. It also requires the proposed degree meet a local workforce need.

 Harris said that so far, about half of the system – 36 districts, including Santa Monica – have expressed intent to apply to be part of the pilot.

The statement said Santa Monica College’s proposal for a bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design, also referred to as “User Experience Design,” comes in direct response to the needs of Los Angeles’s high-tech industry – especially that of Silicon Beach, in the Westside region.

Silicon Beach is home to over 500 start-ups and includes major companies such as Google, Yahoo, and EdgeCast Networks. The college is located in the heart of Silicon Beach.

“This is an extension of our efforts to create pathways for our students to exciting careers that will pay them well, and a beautiful partnership with the local tech industry,” said Jennifer Merlic, the college’s Dean of Instruction. “They’ve told us that this is an area where they have an overwhelming need –where they want to hire our students, at the BA level.”

Only two private universities in California –- Art Center College of Design and California College of the Arts –- offer a bachelor’s level degree in the emerging field of interaction design. The programs at these two universities cost around $40,000 a year, the statement said.

 If approved by the California Community College’s Board of Governors, a student could earn a degree at SMC at a cost of just over $10,000 for the entire program.

"SB 850 is a game changer…students now have another door that can lead to a quality, affordable four-year degree," said Block.  

The statement said SMC has “robust” certificate programs in both graphic and web design, with a large number of students enrolled in the lower division core courses of the proposed degree.

It also said SMC has the facilities and resources needed to offer this degree -- including the Academy of Entertainment and Technology – as well as highly qualified faculty with industry expertise and strong involvement from the local tech industry.

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