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Monday, March 12, 2018

CA Proposes Online College for Workers

The California Community Colleges system includes 114 colleges in 72 districts and serves more than two million students. Even that may not be enough to both train incoming students for careers and help existing workers transition to new roles as the U.S. job landscape undergoes sweeping change. In his State of the State address earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown estimated there are 2.5 million Californians between the ages of 25-34 who are in the workforce but lack a postsecondary degree or certificate.

To help those workers, the CCC system’s chancellor, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, wants to develop a new online community college to deliver badly needed courses. Brown asked the legislature to approve $100 million in startup funds for the project, along with $20 million in ongoing annual costs. If the money is approved, the new college would begin enrolling students for fall 2019.

“These are individuals who cannot drop everything they’re doing to come to our colleges and spend two or three years getting a degree or credential,” Oakley told NPR. “They need short-term job skills in order to survive.”

The curriculum would be designed in partnership with employers and labor unions, with a focus on high-demand industries such as construction, health care, child care, and information technology. “We would give them a short burst of job skills that employers would honor,” Oakley explained. “This is not something that our community colleges currently focus on.”

Learning would be self-paced and students would be eligible for state financial aid. There might even be an option to pay a flat fee for unlimited course access. Federal financial aid would only become available when and if the college received accreditation.

While Brown stated the new online college would not compete with existing schools in the state or their programs, Jonathan Lightman, executive director of the 11,000-member Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, said his organization would rather some or all of the project’s funding go toward offering more courses through the system’s existing Online Education Initiative, launched in 2013.

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