California’s online community college faces third shutdown attempt

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Calbright College

For the third year in a row, Calbright College, the state’s only online community college, is facing a legislative attempt to shut it down permanently.

“I haven’t seen anything to indicate progress,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, author of Assembly Bill 2820, which would close the college. “I’ve had recent conversations with them and seen a slight increase in completion, but I’m still not positive.”

Medina said he was disappointed that so few students completed Calbright’s certificate programs. Only 70 earned a certificate at the end of 2021 when the college reported 748 students enrolled.

“This number is very low,” Medina said referring to the number of students who have earned certificates. “And there are still a lot of students who have stopped.”

Medina insists there are better uses for the millions of dollars the state gives to the college.

Calbright is a free, stand-alone alternative to traditional colleges for adults ages 25-34 who don’t have a college degree or need additional skills to qualify for higher-paying jobs. The college uses a competency-based education model that assesses students based on their skills, not the time they spend in a class.

Medina’s bill would close the college by January 2024 and reallocate funding from Calbright to basic needs centers and student housing for the other 115 community colleges, with at least $5 million to support students with disabilities. dependent children. The bill does not detail the amounts that would be reallocated to each area. The next step for the bill is an Assembly hearing by the Higher Education Committee, chaired by Medina.

By the end of this fiscal year, Calbright will have received $60 million in one-time funding and $15 million in ongoing state dollars.

On Tuesday, Calbright reported that its enrollment had risen to 1,010 from 930 students in February 2022, when nearly 66% of students would be enrolled in information technology courses. Calbright began in October 2019 with over 300 students with plans to maintain enrollment at around 400 students while expanding programming. Last year the college began pushing to attract more students and saw enrollment jump from 590 students in November to 748 at the end of December.

Former employees have publicly questioned Calbright administrators about the degree of student activity in the program.

For example, as of March 2, only 546 or 59% of enrolled students were participating in a “substantive academic activity,” which could include taking a quiz, answering discussion questions, completing a project, or any activity. academic determined by an instructor.

After 180 days of inactivity, students are kicked out of college, though critics say that’s too long to carry a non-attending student.

Since November 1, 155 students have dropped out of college.

In a statement, the college said it was seeing progress, with 83% of students actively engaged in their program over the past 90 days.

“These early indicators suggest that Calbright is well on the way to solving the complex equation of how to effectively advocate for this population of understudied learners,” according to Calbright.

The college declined to comment on Medina’s bill and instead sent demographic and enrollment data to EdSource.

“Growth in enrollment at Calbright is coupled with significantly improved support services designed to accommodate students, enable them to utilize services such as tutoring when they need assistance, and support their success at every stage of their course,” according to a statement from the college.

Last year, legislative critics pushed for a second attempt to close the college, but that bill languished in the legislature and never saw a hearing. In 2020, Calbright’s first attempt to shut down failed despite passing the Legislature unanimously after Governor Gavin Newsom signaled his support for the college and former Governor Jerry Brown, who nominated for the first time Calbright, pressured lawmakers to stick to it.

The college is rolling out an outreach initiative to build relationships with students to prevent them from delaying their academic progress. They are also developing a new licensed vocational nurse training program in partnership with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West which the college says will help recruit even more students.

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