To reach “stranded” working adults, California will create online-only community college

Gov. Jerry Brown announced that California will create its first online-only community college to increase access to skills training and postsecondary certification.

A new online-only community college that will reach out to millions of “stranded” working Californians was announced by Gov. Jerry Brown in his final budget proposal.

The allocation for the online college was part of Gov. Brown’s $131.7 billion budget proposal for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. It is part of a $570 million increase for California Community Colleges, the nation’s largest community college system.

“We are funding an online community college that is targeted at people who are in the workforce and they need to upgrade their skills and get an opportunity to improve their lives,” Brown said at a press conference on January 10 at the state Capitol.

The public online college will be an independent entity serving adults who need a flexible and affordable pathway to a college education. After a $100 million one-time budget to launch the online school, it will cost the state $20 million a year to operate it, according to the proposal. The school is slated to begin enrollment in late 2019.

“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,” CCC Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a statement supporting Brown’s budget proposal.

TY @JerryBrownGov for your commitment to invest in @CalCommColleges students and in the millions of working adults that deserve an opportunity for a quality & affordable college education. #CABudget2017

— Eloy Ortiz Oakley (@EloyOakley) January 10, 2018

CCC said that Californians who only have a high school diploma or some college experience are at risk of being left behind in a rapidly-changing economy if they do not acquire new skills and postsecondary credentials.

“Artificial intelligence, the rise of the gig economy and automation are changing the future of work and the skillsets needed to succeed,” CCC said on its website detailing its plan for the online college.

Citing research from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, CCC said the economy’s shift away from blue-collar jobs to medium-to-high skilled ones has left many prime-age working adults stranded without economic and social mobility in the post-Great Recession recovery.

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According to the CCC, the competency-based online college will be “unlike any other public online education platform” by offering short-term sub-associate degree and credential programs geared to the schedules and needs of working adults.

Following the lead of the lessons gleaned from the Strong Workforce Program, the online school will feature industry-aligned curricula to match skills training with the demands of California’s growing industries, such as health care and advanced manufacturing. This will ensure that students exit school with skills with labor market value.

Additionally, the community college will develop workers’ employability skills so they can adapt to employers’ need for soft skills outside of technology-based ones.

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CCC said that the online school will not compete with current community colleges and their own online programs, as it is for workers who lack access to California’s “traditional college programs.” But the new school is intended to provide students an alternative to private online institutions, which offer postsecondary credentials, certifications and associate degrees at higher costs.

The online college announcement follows another boon for students after Brown signed a bill last October to make the first year of community college for all students tuition-free. Brown’s final budget proposal confirmed that the AB19 bill would receive full funding.

“By having a fully-available online two-year community [college] with all the various courses and certificates available will really help people very much,” Brown said.

To learn more about Gov. Brown’s plan for California’s community college system: click here.

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