(Santa Ana, Calif.) – Santa Ana College (SAC) today announced it has received provisional approval from the Chancellor of California Community Colleges (CCC) to offer a bachelor of arts in Paralegal Studies. Final approval from the CCC Board of Governors is expected in January 2024 and SAC expects to launch the program in the fall semester of 2025.
"Our award winning and American Bar Association-approved paralegal program is a great choice when it comes to offering another bachelor's degree in the California Community College system," said Dr. Annebelle Nery, president of SAC. “Our program is grounded in job readiness, earning a living wage, and service to the local and legal community."
According to a UC Davis Benefits and Opportunities report, graduates of community college bachelor degree programs earn twice as much as they did before obtaining their degree, with nearly 98 percent of students reporting their employment in the same field of study as their degree.
The baccalaureate-level Paralegal Studies program at SAC will be the first of its kind at any public institution in California according to Kim Smith, SAC Legal Studies Department co-chair. The new program is designed for students who already have an associate degree in Paralegal Studies from an institution approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), such as SAC's long-standing paralegal training program that currently offers associate of arts and certificate options.
“Taking our program to the next level with a bachelor's degree in paralegal will be a great benefit to California students and employers," Nery added.
When the new program launches, SAC will compete with private, post-secondary institutions that offer more expensive paths toward a bachelor's degree in paralegal, Smith explained.
“As part of the community college system, SAC will be able to deliver a quality paralegal education on our own college campus and online for a much lower cost," Smith said. “Our community ties, work experience opportunities, and hands-on clinics will elevate the student experience beyond what can be accomplished elsewhere."
Demand for trained paralegals and legal assistants is high, said Kristen Robinson, SAC Legal Studies Department co-chair, citing a 2022 report from the Orange County Center for Excellence, which showed there will be a demand for 17,291 paralegal and legal assistant jobs in Orange and Los Angeles Counties by 2025, compared with 15,964 in 2020, an increase of 8 percent and double the 4 percent growth expected nationally in the field.
“The law faculty at SAC is so proud of our students and we really wanted this opportunity for them," Robinson said. “A bachelor's degree in Paralegal Studies has the potential to be transformative. Law is about power and understanding the systems that underlie power. I can't wait to see what students demanding equity, and schooled in power, do with that knowledge and how that serves our community."
According to Smith, SAC's paralegal program offers robust internship placements, clinical work, and collaboration with public interest law firms.
“Our students work with Community Legal Aid and Public Law Center to host legal clinics and create a bridge from the classroom over to well-paying jobs," Smith added. “We also offer courses in legal technology, e-Discovery and AI, and law firm interpreting."
SAC Foundation Board Member Jose Alfredo Hernandez, Esq., a member of the Orange County Legal Community for over 26 years, shares the college's commitment to prepare students to compete for jobs in the legal field.
"By offering a bachelor's degree in Paralegal Studies, SAC will not only empower more students to enter the legal profession, but it will provide our legal community with individuals, ready to contribute in job placements," said Jose Alfredo Hernandez.
When the program opens in 2025, the new baccalaureate degree in Paralegal Studies will be the second bachelor's program at SAC. SAC also offers a bachelor of science in Occupational Studies.
For more information, please visit www.sac.edu/paralegal. Questions about this press release, can be directed to Dalilah Davaloz, public information officer at Davaloz_Dalilah@sac.edu.
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About Santa Ana College:
Santa Ana College (SAC), founded in 1915, serves more than 54,600 students yearly. At present, SAC students can work toward completing an associate degree, university transfer, career/workforce training or a bachelor's degree in occupational studies. As part of Santa Ana College, the School of Continuing Education located at Centennial Education Center offers free classes throughout the community for adults of all ages and academic backgrounds. Santa Ana College is an award-winning college and was recently ranked as one of the nation's top two-year colleges awarding associate degrees to Latino and Asian students and named one of the best community colleges in California by Intelligent.com. The college is also recognized throughout the state for its comprehensive workforce training programs for nurses, firefighters, law enforcement and medical personnel. Santa Ana College is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District