Dear Commons Community,
In presenting his higher education budget yesterday, California’s Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new competency-based, online community college to serve the entire state. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:
“Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled a cautious budget proposal for California on Wednesday, proposing modest increases in state dollars and tuition freezes for the state’s two university systems, even as they struggle to meet the demand from applicants.
But one thing the governor, a Democrat, is willing to spend more money on is a fully online community college. The proposal is meant to provide flexibility for an estimated 2.5 million adults who want to improve their job skills by earning certificates or other nondegree credentials. The online courses will use a competency-based approach that advances students based on their knowledge, not on time spent in the classroom.
“California community colleges are serving 2.1 million students each year, but we are still not meeting the needs of 2.5 million others who for a variety of reasons cannot attend classes on our campuses,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the state’s community-college system, which already has 114 campuses.
In fact, Governor Brown asked the community-college system in May to “take whatever steps are necessary” to develop an online college that would serve the whole state. The new entity will be administered through the system’s central office.
The idea is similar to at least two other systems: the University of Wisconsin system offers a limited number of degree and certificate programs through its UW Flexible Option, which also caters to adults and uses a competency-based approach. The State University of New York offers online degree programs through its Open SUNY platform, allowing a student to take any online course offered by the system’s 64 campuses.
Governor Brown has been a frequent critic of the state’s university systems for not pursuing new, and potentially less expensive, online courses to hold the line on their costs and the price of tuition. Leaders of those systems have, on occasion, dismissed the idea that expanding online education could be a remedy for what ails their institutions.
And on Wednesday, the leaders of those systems expressed some disappointment in the governor’s budget, which still must be hashed out by the state legislature. Janet Napolitano, chancellor of the University of California system, said in a written statement that she was pleased with an increase. But she noted that the proposed 3-percent hike fell short of an agreement she had negotiated with the governor in 2015.
Timothy White, chancellor of the California State University system, was more direct, calling the governor’s budget proposal “both concerning and surprising.”
“This budget proposal could reverse any progress made in the last decade – diminishing student access, success, limiting degree attainment and depriving California’s industries of skilled professionals,” Mr. White said in his written statement.”
The shape of things to come!