Dear Commons Community,
In January 2018, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new competency-based, online community college to serve the entire state of California. The college’s main focus will be to develop quality new content, courses, and programs that provide students with an opportunity to learn skills that align with the needs of employers, industry sectors, and/or industry partners. In June, the plan for the new online college began taking shape as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“Jerry Brown was taking a victory lap.
The call went out to reporters early on a recent Monday morning: The governor would attend that day’s meeting of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. A few minutes after 11, tieless and relaxed, Brown slid into a seat on the dais. He was just in time — and not coincidentally — for a discussion of the state’s newest, and wholly online, community college.
The virtual college, the 115th institution in California’s two-year system, is Brown’s baby, its approval in June the capstone to his sunset year in office. The college is meant to serve a population too often left behind by higher education: under- or unemployed adults who need new skills to land a job, secure a raise, nab a promotion, just to maintain a toehold in a swiftly changing workplace. An online institution, its advocates say, will allow so-called stranded workers — there are 2.5 million Californians without a postsecondary degree or credential between the ages of 25 and 34 alone — to take short-term courses whenever, wherever.
Reaching those workers will be necessary for the world’s fifth-largest economy to continue to grow and thrive. And if the online college enrolls even a fraction of its target audience, it would become the largest provider of distance education, public or private, in the nation. The scale — and the potential for innovation — has people across the country looking West.
Given the floor at the Board of Governors meeting, Brown, a Democrat, couldn’t help crowing. “This is a no-brainer, it is obvious, it is inevitable, it is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped,” he said. “California is a leader, it will lead in this. And I say, hallelujah.”
There are still details to work out but the goal is to start admitting students by 2019 at the latest. Faculty have to be hired, as well the president and top administrators. As a stand-alone entity, the college will also have to apply for accreditation. It will also work closely with the Community Colleges’ Online Education Initiative (OEI), that started five years ago as a virtual exchange that allows all community-college students to take courses from campuses across the state. Some 7,800 courses are now available through the OEI. It is also possible that much of the online services offered by the new college will be provided by a third party vendor. All this will happen under the watchful eye of lawmakers as well as faculty members across the community-college system, who, while they have dropped their outright opposition, remain skeptical of the online institution. And it will be without its biggest booster, Brown, whose fourth term as governor will end in January. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.