As reported by 89.3KPCC, a member-supported public media network operating in Southern California, in early April, Gov. Jerry Brown was attempting to convince legislators to get on board with the creation of a new online community college. This new institution would service the 2.5 million working-class Californians that currently have a high school diploma but have not obtained a college degree.
The argument for creating this online community college is that it would provide a means for working-class Californians who are currently stuck at jobs due to a lack of skills to get the necessary skills to move up or move on to a position above their current title. Many of these individuals are overburdened with work and do not have the time to attend classes at a traditional brick and mortar college.
The main push-back that was received on such an idea was the fact that many colleges, particularly community colleges, already offer online options for classes. It was suggested that their focus should be to expand these options as well as take steps to elevate the quality of these courses to match what students are receiving in a brick and mortar classroom.
However, there are a lot of drawbacks to the current online classroom system. Students have complained that it is harder to remain focused and complete courses because there are more distractions at home that pull them away from their coursework. Furthermore, if they do need to get help from the professor, response times vary via email when compared to being in person with the instructor.
Additionally, Brown’s new proposal finally got past a major hurdle in June when a 10-person budget conference committee approved a compromise agreement. It was then approved later that month by the Legislature, overcoming months of opposition.
With its approval, this means that this new online community college will become basically the 115th community college in the state. This new college will cost roughly $100 million in startup costs over the course of the next seven years. The funding for this new program is included in the 2018-2019 fiscal year that started on July 1. However, this new college will offer programs that differ from what is currently offered at the 114 community colleges across the state.
The programs that will be offered by this new online community college will take an individual a little more than a year to complete and will be geared toward addressing “certain labor shortages” according to the article “As Gov. Brown urges work on new online college, community college faculty drop their opposition.”
In addition to these differences, the online college will be based around a new learning system called competency-based learning. It will reward students for the skills they have already acquired before entering college and will give students the opportunity to prove that they have mastered job-related training. This will curtail the new programs to the needs of the students and will break from the traditional academic calendar seen at community colleges previously. From now until the end of the year, the college and the board will have to fill the role of CEO, outline a business plan, and conduct many other preparational and preliminary activities before they can admit their first students.