Sonoma State University and Solano Community College have teamed up to offer a new program that will allow adult residents of Vallejo, Benicia, and nearby communities to earn a four-year degree without making a long commute. Beginning this fall, the Vallejo Center of the Solano Community College will now offer residents with an AA degree an opportunity earn a degree in Liberal Arts through Sonoma State by spending an additional two years studying at the Center. The program, aimed at working adults who, for whatever reason, didn’t finish college, can’t commit to full-time studies, or are unable or unwilling to make the grueling drives (and pay the hefty bridge tolls) necessary to attend schools in the East Bay or San Francisco.

“The program is for students who have already completed their AAs,” says Dr. Jowel Laguerre, the President and Superintendent of the college. “What we are hoping for is a lot of working adults who have already completed their community college studies going into this program.”

Laguerre credits Sonoma State President Dr. Ruben Armiñana with helping to bring the program forward. He claims Armiñana has long held an interest in starting a four-year degree program in Solano County. Part of the momentum for the campus comes from a 2002 Measure G bond presented to Solano County Voters voters to get them approve funding for a program that would bring a four-year degree program to Vallejo. Laguerre believe that the campus’s opening finally fulfills the bond’s promise to voters.

The fruits of this promise will be celebrated on a “Signing Day” on September 27, at the Vallejo Center of the Solano County Community College. The Vallejo Center is on Columbus Parkway, not far from the many large businesses located in the Gateway Plaza. It’s a commuter college, not big on idyllic landscaping or the traditional ivy-strewn, arboreal look of the conventional Eastern campus. But higher education can survive without these superfluities—just as it can survive the often long hiatuses of adult learners.

The program will initially offer only a B.A. in Liberal Studies, but its backers plan to develop routes to other majors as time goes on. Prices for tuition will be commensurate with the fees charged by Sonoma State and classes are scheduled to accommodate the needs of working adults.

Perhaps because the program is indebted to the will of past voters, Laguerre feels confident of the benefits the service will confer on the Vallejo Area. “Not having to travel for a degree is really going to be a plus for our citizens,” says Laguerre. “It has the potential to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees and I think that with the way that our economy and technology are changing, having people with bachelor’s degrees really would greatly benefit the county. And as we have people with more bachelor’s degrees, we would be able to increase our economic development in many ways. And that should attract new business, hopefully, and perhaps also maintain the businesses we have. “ It should be noted that Vallejo already has one reputable degree-granting campus, The California Maritime Academy, but that school’s small size and maritime focus are not to everyone’s taste, and the curriculum wasn’t designed with working adults in mind.

The Vallejo Center has been shy about promoting the program, but now they’re stepping up efforts to get the word out, and Laguerre is pleased with the enthusiastic response of the community.

It’s worth noting Solano County used to be a hub of higher learning. Benicia, which had the first women’s college west of the Rockies, was once celebrated as “the Athens of California,” and the area had several other colleges and law schools. Unfortunately, our reputation for higher education dissipated with the advent of the Twentieth Century. The Vallejo Center might not correct the trend, but it’s a step in the right direction, and great chance for working adults to achieve their educational goals.