Mortuary Science Alum First in Line as Baccalaureate Application Opens

Steve Crawford was so determined to be the first applicant for Cypress College’s Funeral Service baccalaureate program, he flew to Southern California from the Bay Area a day early to hand in his completed application Monday.

“I’m very excited. I wanted to make sure that I was that person who was the first one in,” the alumnus said after he handed in his application. “I came down yesterday so I could be prepared, so I could be here, print all my stuff at eight o’clock, drive over here, and be done.”

Crawford graduated with an A.S. Mortuary Science degree in Fall 2014.

Applications for Cypress College’s first baccalaureate program opened Monday. The bachelor’s degree is part of a statewide pilot program signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2014 to offer four-year degrees at California community colleges. Under the pilot, these degrees do not compete with programs at UC or Cal State schools.

While a student, Crawford championed the program to the District Board of Trustees, helping to secure their support to submit the program to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for consideration. Each district could only submit one program. Cypress’ Funeral Service proposal was up against Fullerton College’s proposal for a law enforcement supervision degree.

In January 2015, the CCCCO selected Cypress as one of 15 community colleges to participate in the pilot.

Crawford credits Cypress Mortuary Science faculty member Jolena Grande with making the program a reality.

“If not for her, the program wouldn’t have made it,” he said. “I’m sure I helped, but the credit really goes all to her. She went all out for this. It’s really her baby.”

Cypress’ Mortuary Science program is just one of two public programs in the state and the only one offering a four-year degree on the West Coast. Courses for the program start next fall.

Crawford said his interest in mortuary science started with a desire to land a job in a coroner’s office. One way to meet job requirements was a degree in mortuary science, and Cypress was his school of choice “because it’s ranked really highly just in the list of mortuary programs nationwide,” he said.

“I don’t know if I would be where I am within my own organization without the education from Cypress,” he added.

Crawford is currently completing an embalming apprenticeship working as a crematory manager for the Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in East Bay. He hopes to finish up his professional licensing while completing the bachelor’s program.

He said he hopes that having a bachelor’s program in funeral services will help to start change the way the mortuary and funeral industry is viewed by the public.

“The funeral industry kind of gets a bad rap,” he said. “People think they’re basically used car salesmen for death, trying to upsell people…taking advantage of people when they’re grieving.

“Hopefully, through furthering the education process and really getting involved more in the professional organizations, we will change that outlook.”

New Website for Bachelor’s Degree in Funeral Service Program

Cypress College offers associates degrees in multiple fields. Recently, Cypress was one of 15 community colleges in California approved to offer a bachelor’s degree as part of a statewide pilot program.

Cypress College’s program is a Bachelor’s of Science in Funeral Service. Such a degree is rare. In fact, Cypress College’s selection to offer a bachelor’s degree in funeral service presents a unique opportunity since there are no other colleges or universities offering this type of degree in the Western United States. The closest such program is in Oklahoma.

Cypress College’s Bachelor’s of Science in Funeral Service program is a course of study in funeral service education designed for students who wish to advance their career and employment opportunities as a funeral service practitioner. Students in the program will gain a strong knowledge of cemetery and crematory operations, mortuary jurisprudence, issues and trends in funeral service, and more, including externships in clinical embalming and funeral service.

To offer students the resources they need, Cypress College created a website specifically for the Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service program. The site, located at, serves as an information hub for students interested in this program.

If you are interested in the Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service program offered at Cypress College, please fill out this interest form. The enrollment period begins February 6, 2017.

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California Community Colleges
Baccalaureate Degree Pilot Program

A degree in mortuary science is rare. In fact, there are only two public programs offering associate degrees in the field in the State of California. For those seeking to advance in the funeral services industry, a bachelor’s degree is even less common. In fact, Cypress College’s selection to offer a baccalaureate degree in funeral services presents a unique opportunity since there are no other colleges or universities offering this type of degree in the Western United States.

Cypress College — like all 113 California Community Colleges — offers associates degrees in a wide variety of fields. Currently, there are 71 degree programs approved as part of Cypress College’s curriculum.


However, Cypress is one of the 15 California Community Colleges approved to offer a baccalaureate degree as part of a statewide pilot program designed to offer upper division coursework in disciplines not currently covered in the instructional programs offered in the California State University and University of California systems. Cypress College’s program — officially a bachelor’s of science in funeral services — will begin instruction in Fall 2017. This new degree will offer upper division academic and vocational instruction to students, as well as bring expanded employment opportunities to Southern California.

The overarching goal of the program is to enhance, not supplant, the current Associate in Science degree program at Cypress College. In fact, the program and strong alumni base will provide a robust pool of candidates for the baccalaureate degree.
While the concept of a community college baccalaureate degree is likely new to many — state legislation approving the program was passed in 2014 — Professor Jolena Grande has been working towards this moment since 1995. For more than 20 years, she planned, gathered information, and lined up support waiting for the opportunity. Since the program was selected, she has worked tirelessly for a successful implementation.

TVB (USA) Visits Cypress College to Report on Mortuary Science Bachelor's Degree

TVB (USA), a Chinese-language channel appearing across the country, visited Cypress College on Tuesday to prepare a news report about Cypress College’s participation in the California Community College’s pilot bachelor’s degree program. Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program was one of the 15 programs selected to represent the state’s 112 community colleges in the first-of-it’s-kind effort in the Golden State.

It’s not yet known when the TVB story will air, but the plan is that it will be shown nationally, in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York markets.

Professor Dave McCament hosted the news crew in his Restorative Arts classroom for more than 3 hours. Both he and his students did a fantastic job when interviewed.

UPDATE: Here is the report (note: only the interviews are in English).

Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program Selected in California’s First Bachelor’s Degree Pilot Program



CC_Mort-Sci _IMG_9289

Cypress College is one of 15 California community colleges that will offer a bachelor’s-degree program as part of a statewide pilot effort. The College’s Mortuary Science Program was selected by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors, which voted its initial approval of participating colleges on Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m just thrilled,” Cypress College President Dr. Bob Simpson said. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students. Our faculty worked with tremendous diligence to meet the application requirements. In addition, the College’s proposal was enhanced by the participation of Mortuary Science students and alumni in the process. While this is a significant step for community college students, it is also important to note that successful implementation of this program will not impede the core work of the college.”

Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program is so well regarded that the HBO series “Six Feet Under” repeatedly referenced Cypress College to add authenticity. The program is one of only two at public institutions in the state and no public university in the Western United States offers a bachelor’s degree in the field. The closest such program is in Oklahoma.

In the News

OC Breeze — Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program selected in California’s first bachelor’s degree pilot program

Orange County Register — Santa Ana, Cypress colleges slated to offer 4-year degrees

Los Angeles Times — Fifteen community colleges in California to offer four-year degrees

Long Beach Press Telegram — Cypress College among 15 campuses to offer 4-year degrees

OC Weekly — Cypress College Moves on to Better Place With Early Nod for 4-Year Mortuary Science Degrees

Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program was selected last November by North Orange County Community College District Trustees to apply for the California pilot program. Districts were permitted to submit only one program each. Programs also were required not to be in conflict with bachelor’s-degree programs already offered in the Cal States or UCs.

In September 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that allows California community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees in a pilot program. The legislation, known as SB 850, was sponsored by Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego).

Instruction in the pilot baccalaureate degree program in 15 college districts will begin no later than the 2017-18 academic year. Under the new law, community colleges would charge only $84 more per unit for upper-division baccalaureate coursework than they currently charge for lower-division courses. The Legislative Analyst’s Office will conduct an interim evaluation of the bachelor’s degree program in 2018, and a final evaluation by July 2022. The pilot program will end in the 2022-23 academic year, unless extended by the Legislature.

Nationwide, more than 50 community colleges operate almost 500 baccalaureate programs in 21 states.

About Cypress College:

Cypress College has motivated the minds of students since 1966. For nearly a half-million people — including actors, athletes, doctors, executives, mechanics, nurses and teachers — Cypress College has been a springboard to their dreams. For some, Cypress College is the ticket into their university of choice. For others it provides essential training for a rewarding career. Just one Cypress College class is often all it takes to provide cutting-edge skills that lead to a promotion or a new job.

Cypress College’s 16,000 students and its highly qualified teaching faculty are proud of its many excellent academic and vocational programs. Cypress College offers 50 university-transfer majors, 138 career-certificate programs, and degrees in 61 areas of study. The College’s traditional semesters begin in January and September, while short-term courses start throughout the year. A Cypress College education costs $46 per unit — $138 for a typical, full-credit class — California’s lowest higher education tuition. Financial aid and scholarships are also available to qualifying students.

Cypress College is one of three campuses in the North Orange County Community College District and a member of the 110-campus California Community College System. The college primarily serves the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Cypress, Garden Grove, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Stanton. Dr. Bob Simpson is the president.

Located at 9200 Valley View Street in Cypress, the College is easily accessible from several Southern California freeways, including the 5, 91, 605, 22 and 405. The campus is just a stone’s-throw from Downtown Disney and Knott’s Berry Farm.

More information about Cypress College is available by calling (714) 484-7000 or by visiting the campus Web site at


NOTE: The official news release is available here — Cypress College’s Mortuary Science Program Selected in California’s First Bachelor’s Degree Pilot Program