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Online Community College

Governor Jerry Brown’s Plan to Serve Workers Who Need Skills and Credentials to Move Ahead but Cannot Access Traditional College Courses

“With respect to higher education, it is clear just how much of our prosperity depends on the intellectual contributions of our institutions of higher learning. National leaders come from all over the world to visit California's most innovative companies. Companies that are filled with highly educated and creative men and women—many of whom graduated from our public colleges and universities… Even with so many of our students attending college, there are still 2.5 million Californians between 25 and 34 who are in the workforce, but lack a postsecondary degree or certificate. These men and women often go out of state or pay high tuition at for-profit institutions to improve their skills and employability. For this group, I want to create the California Online College so these overlooked Californians can get the training they need conveniently and at very low cost.”
Governor Jerry Brown, 2018 State of the State Address

“The Californians we seek to reach cannot stop working to get the education they need to get ahead, and many of them juggle multiple jobs to feed their families. As much as we would like to, we cannot will them onto our campuses. We need to rethink traditional delivery models and pedagogies and meet this population where and when they are ready to gain skills and credentials.”
California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley

Economic insecurity is expected to increase over the next decade. By 2020, 65 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require a college credential, according to estimates by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce. Artificial intelligence, the rise of the gig economy and automation are changing the future of work and the skillsets needed to succeed.

Millions of Californians would benefit from sub-associate degree credentials or short bursts of additional training to move ahead in today’s economy. However, traditional higher education is not accessible for these working learners.

The California Community Colleges is responding with an online community college to provide skills and credentials working learners need to improve their social and economic mobility and move our state forward. This new, competency-based online college will be unlike any other public online education platform and will focus predominately on sub-associate degree credentials of value tailored to the needs of these working learners.

Through partnerships with employers, industry sectors and organized labor, the online community college would offer the skills that match the jobs that employers are looking to fill. The college will create program pathways to include vocational training, upskilling and credentialing support for career education jobs in growing industries to ensure strong labor market outcomes and alignment with future educational and career pursuits.

The online community college strongly aligns with the California community colleges system’s Vision for Success goal of better serving working adults, and it will extend the California College Promise to these students.

Read Governor Brown’s white paper or summary about the online college here.

“California must expand access to college to improve the lives of its residents and meet the challenges of the future economy. The California Community Colleges recognizes the importance of this goal in its proposal to serve students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In a state known for innovation and world-class higher education, the community college system is ideally situated to pioneer and rigorously evaluate this concept of online education.”
Mark Baldassare, President and CEO, PPIC

“California has not kept pace with meeting the demand for an educated workforce by employers and the growing demand by students seeking a college education. Today’s announcement by Governor Brown and the California Community Colleges to expand online education will establish a lifeline for the millions of working Californians that need college to improve their skills and make it into the middle class. This is exactly the type of bold innovation that we must embrace. The Campaign for College Opportunity stands ready to work alongside community colleges to ensure this ambitious proposal can help meet critical workforce needs and offer a new path forward that will result in educating more Californians, strengthening our economy and ensuring all Californians have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director, Campaign for College Opportunity

“The needs of our students are rapidly evolving and it’s important that community colleges evolve with them. Online programs are now the preferred option for thousands of students in our state, especially those who are balancing full time jobs with their educational goals. This innovative approach will ensure that we can offer more opportunities for students to achieve academic success, without negatively impacting enrollment at our brick and mortar institutions. I applaud the creativity and urgency of this effort, and look forward to seeing it implemented.”
Brian King, Chancellor, Los Rios Community College District

“The California Community Colleges have chosen to design for a preferred future. A preferred future that doesn’t include radical inequality which is toxic to economic growth. A preferred future that invests smartly in developing and scaling solutions so that learning and working are integrated.  This is a critical innovation so that soon, Californians will no longer have to sacrifice pay to educate themselves, or sacrifice learning opportunities to make money.”
Parminder Jassal, Learn + Work Futures, Institute for the Future

Read more about what California’s leaders are saying about an online community college »

Innovation in Reaching Working Learners

Millions of Californians find themselves economically and educationally “stranded.” In California, there are 2.5 million adults in the prime working ages of 25 to 34 years old who have only a high school diploma or some college but no degree. Another 6.2 million adults between the ages of 35 to 65 years old have a high school diploma but no college degree.

Traditional higher education is not accessible for millions of Californians. Their schedules do not fit into traditional classroom-based settings due to work and family obligations. Transportation time and costs further make traditional options less attractive. In addition, 48 percent of these adults come from Spanish-speaking households.

Read about Working Learners and their Barriers to Higher Education »

“The governor has clearly signaled to us that he cares about providing economic opportunities and the opportunity to prosper for every immigrant in California. This is the opportunity to create that system. What we know is that with the proper partnerships, we definitely consider the community colleges to be one of our premier partners in these educational and training programs, that the opportunity is there and the timing is right. The governor has made that investment in other areas, and I think it’s the right opportunity for the Chancellor’s Office and the community college system to redefine how we serve this population with barriers.”
Jennifer Hernandez, California Labor Agency

“We absolutely support online learning, particularly a model that emphasizes quality and portable curriculum. We deal with this population. They are coming into our career centers. We understand that 20 percent of California’s population lives at or below poverty and another almost 20 percent live once incident away from being at or below poverty. That’s almost 40 percent of our state’s population.”
Bob Lanter, Executive Director, California Workforce Association

Read this Research Supporting Online Education for Adult Learners »

What California’s Leaders are Saying about an Online Community College

A broad coalition of California’s leaders support an online community college for reaching working learners.

Community & Social Justice Leaders

"The state and community college system are taking the right steps to identify better ways to serve Latinos. Having more opportunities to obtain a college degree or get advanced career training will help close the gaps in education and economic standing for our community. We have had successful experiences of collaboration and the purpose is consistent with the Mission of Mujeres Extraordinarias."
Dr. Martha Esquivel de Zamora, Presidenta, Mujeres Extraordinarias

“The Online California Community College will offer young, underserved, working learners greater access to postsecondary education. Young Invincibles looks forward to working with the California Community Colleges to ensure that this flexible learning option remains accountable to the success of these students who are looking for a means to build or grow a foundation of skills that meet the future of work and build their economic security.”
Gustavo Herrera, Western Regional Director, Young Invincibles

“Building a high-quality, public online college is a win for California's students. It will be especially valuable for adult learners and aspiring students who have been unable to earn the knowledge and skills that they need to succeed through traditional higher education. We are excited to work together with thousands of California's students to create an online college that builds a stronger economic, educational, and civic future for our state.”
Max Lubin, CEO, Rise California

“We are glad to see the state’s efforts toward bringing more educational resources to underserved communities, especially Latinos, to help more adult students reach their goals.”
Leticia Mendoza, Director, Young Latinas Empowerment

“California has not kept pace with meeting the demand for an educated workforce by employers and the growing demand by students seeking a college education.  Today’s announcement by Governor Brown and the California Community Colleges to expand online education will establish a lifeline for the millions of working Californians that need college to improve their skills and make it into the middle class.  This is exactly the type of bold innovation that we must embrace. The Campaign for College Opportunity stands ready to work alongside community colleges to ensure this ambitious proposal can help meet critical workforce needs and offer a new path forward that will result in educating more Californians, strengthening our economy and ensuring all Californians have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Michele Siqueiros, Executive Director, Campaign for College Opportunity

“Reaching students where they’re at – coupled with high expectations and the supports they need to be successful – is a hallmark of an equitable approach to education. The online community college proposal holds promise for advancing equity for all of California’s students. It’s also encouraging to see a proposal that focuses specifically on working and adult learners, many of whom are from communities of color and low-income communities. We’re excited to work with Chancellor Oakley to develop the best possible online college.”
Ryan J. Smith, Education Trust - West

Leaders in Education and Public Policy

“I am pleased at the potential for new and flexible learning options for adults in California. Our state needs widespread innovation in higher education in order to remain economically competitive. This new effort could help the several million adults in California with some college credits, but no degree or credential, to access the coursework they need, helping to close our state credential and degree gap of 2.4 million.”
Dr. Lande Ajose, Executive Director, California Competes

“It is very encouraging to see California considering innovative approaches to address state and national concerns around student access, equity and completion barriers. It is only through forward-thinking approaches that we will be able to meet the specific needs of both our students and state economies. Future economic growth will depend on education beyond high school for underrepresented populations including low income and first-generation students. California’s willingness to address the barriers that prevent full inclusion in postsecondary education indicates their commitment to serving all students and putting the state on a path towards prosperity and growth.”
Robert Anderson, President, State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO)

“California must expand access to college to improve the lives of its residents and meet the challenges of the future economy. The California Community Colleges recognizes the importance of this goal in its proposal to serve students traditionally underrepresented in higher education. In a state known for innovation and world-class higher education, the community college system is ideally situated to pioneer and rigorously evaluate this concept of online education.”
Mark Baldassare, President and CEO, PPIC

“Given the changes to California’s demographics and economy, we are uniquely challenged to serve a growing number of adult workers who need more education and training to compete in the job field and feel economically secure. An online approach offers a way to deliver services to students who have been unable to benefit from college either because of their inability to access a campus or their work schedule.”
Dr. Jose Fierro, D.V.M., Ph.D., President, Cerritos College

“Our member companies champion high-quality education and are committed to ensuring access to the technology and training necessary to enter sustainable, well-paying jobs. In its mission to provide up-to-date, industry relevant coursework, expanded student support services, and new ways of engaging prospective employers, the proposed online community college platform keeps with the California Community Colleges Vision for Success. If the platform leverages the considerable talent of our community college faculty, and taps into existing efforts to engage industry, it will become an effective tool to meet the needs of "stranded" workers and strengthen California’s vibrant economy.”
Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

“A single-minded district with a unique mission uniquely geared toward meeting the unique needs of these unique Californians is a visionary proposal, and we fully support it. And it’s uniqueness is foundational both to serve as the basis of a solid business plan, but it’s also foundational to meeting the unique challenge posed by the for-profit education institutions. They are ambitious, with an enormous amount of capital behind them, looking to make contact with the very same Californians that would be served by this innovative proposal. Too often that sector regrettably makes a lot of promises to lift people out of poverty, but regrettably, too often pushes them into debt and back into poverty.”
Ed Howard, Children’s Advocacy Institute

“The California Community Colleges have chosen to design for a preferred future. A preferred future that doesn’t include radical inequality which is toxic to economic growth.   A preferred future that invests smartly in developing and scaling solutions so that learning and working are integrated.  This is a critical innovation so that soon, Californians will no longer have to sacrifice pay to educate themselves, or sacrifice learning opportunities to make money.”
Parminder Jassal, Learn + Work Futures, Institute for the Future

“The needs of our students are rapidly evolving and it’s important that community colleges evolve with them. Online programs are now the preferred option for thousands of students in our state, especially those who are balancing full time jobs with their educational goals. This innovative approach will ensure that we can offer more opportunities for students to achieve academic success, without negatively impacting enrollment at our brick and mortar institutions. I applaud the creativity and urgency of this effort, and look forward to seeing it implemented.”
Brian King, Chancellor, Los Rios Community College District

“The Governor’s online community college proposal is a social justice project that is sharp, clean and bold. At a time when many public and private opportunities for education and skills development are out of financial reach, it is the California Community College System that can advance economic development and social good through programs such the Governor’s proposed online community college. This is a salient investment that will surely pay dividends and is worthy of our collective support.”
Krishen Arvind Laetsch, Advocate for Children, Health and Education

“An online community college promises to provide another powerful option for millions of Californians with jobs, families, and other barriers to accessing the higher education and training they need to thrive in our changing economy. I look forward to leveraging the R&D lessons from this initiative to improve our local colleges’ online, hybrid, and digitally-supported learning options as we strive to live up to our reputation as champions of innovation and opportunity.”
Cindy L. Miles, Chancellor, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

“This is an exciting opportunity for the State of California to enable students from diverse backgrounds receive an unparalleled, effective education unavailable in any other public system. Our experience shows us that this means transforming the student experience through dynamic student supports, a curriculum focused on practical knowledge that students can use to adapt to a changing world, pedagogy that is focused on leveraging scientific research on learning (Fully Active Learning), and deploying technology designed to help equip students with the cognitive tools and skills they need to succeed in the world.”
Ben Nelson, CEO, Minerva Project

“Kudos to California for exploring new ways to reach underserved populations. As I have reviewed successful similar efforts in other states, the existence of an institution or organization with a clear, focused mission is essential. The plan for a statewide college to focus on the state’s nontraditional students shows real promise.”
Russell Poulin, Director, Policy and Analysis
WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET)

“I have taught online for twelve years, spearheading the first online class in my division. I like the idea of students being able to earn their degrees fully online, and I believe this is the time to seize the opportunity. I hear stories from working-class students all the time, who share their concerns and frustrations about the limited access to online courses. Their education is stalled or halted because they cannot take the next necessary course due to the lack of online offerings, or, sadly, there may not even be an online offering for the needed course at all.”
Teresa Tarazi, English Instructor, Fresno City College

“The CCC system was chartered to provide quality, affordable career education to California adults. To continue fulfilling that mission, at this point, requires a major reorientation in how online CCC courses are developed and delivered. Only the Online Community College Proposal holds forth the realistic near-term hope of accomplishing this.”
James Wallerstedt, Adjunct Faculty, Grossmont College

“The concept of an online community college is a paradigm shift for educators. A majority of educators are entrenched in how we have taught students 25 years ago. Students have changed in the twenty years I have been a counselor. So, we have to change with the current, and unfortunately, the technology current is a fast wave and we must work quickly to not be overwhelmed.”
Richard L. Yang, Counselor/Articulation Officer, Sacramento City College

Leaders in Economic Development

“Expanding online programming will ensure our state’s future workforce is equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow. As the largest system of higher education in the nation, CCC is a significant source for higher education and training that is seeding jobs across the state. However, not all Californians can physically get to a campus or wait until a traditional semester start. An online community college will enable students and workers to develop or upkeep their skills and ensure educators are positioned to meet learners needs.”
Linda Bidrossian, Senior Vice President, Policy, Bay Area Council

“We need to provide flexibility and leverage technology solutions as an advantage for these workers who feel stranded and left behind in a rapidly changing economy. A fully supported online learning experience redefines access for those who need it most. The ability to adapt to change will be a key factor for regions that succeed as the future of work evolves across California.”
Matt Horton, Associate Director, California Center, Milken Institute

“Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) supports initiatives aimed at increasing access to distance learning and higher education opportunities in rural California. This announcement and the ensuing efforts has the potential to impact rural communities which have not experienced the same access to higher education, economic growth and recovery as more populated areas in the state. RCRC specifically supports distance learning, telehealth programs, and the economic benefits associated with high speed ubiquitous broadband. Robust, high speed broadband deployment will be important so that all rural areas can fully participate in this innovative program aimed at arming prime-age working adults throughout the state with the necessary knowledge and skills to fully participate in the 21st Century economy.”
Terrance Rodgers, Economic Development Officer, Rural County Representatives of California

“It is imperative that our education and training programs keep pace with the fast-developing technologies, innovations, and the unpredictable economic realities that business and industry adapt to on a daily basis. To this end, we can, and must, pursue flexible and adaptive education, training and workforce development strategies that reflect the scale and nature of emergent industry and labor demand changes. This is the pace at which business and industry are moving. The community colleges’ online college provides yet another opportunity to ensure that our non-traditional students are obtaining the credentials that will allow them to access economic and social mobility.”
Alma Salazar, Senior Vice President, Center for Education Excellence and Talent Development, LA Area Chamber of Commerce

Leaders in Industry and Labor

“In my business, I see technology bringing great efficiencies to work done previously by many tradespeople. There’s no turning back those advances. We just need more ways for people to skill up, like using this online college to help journeyworkers step into foreman/first-line supervisor roles. For many adults, the trappings of a physical college campus is less important than the flexibility to learn on their own schedule and not have to start from scratch.”
Jim Hussey, Chair of the California Apprenticeship Council
COO at the Sheet Metal Workers’ Local 104 Bay Area Industry Training Fund
President of Marina Mechanical

“We absolutely support online learning, particularly a model that emphasizes quality and portable curriculum. We deal with this population. They are coming into our career centers. We understand that 20 percent of California’s population lives at or below poverty and another almost 20 percent live once incident away from being at or below poverty. That’s almost 40 percent of our state’s population.”
Bob Lanter, Executive Director, California Workforce Association

“The California Hospital Association acknowledges and supports the California Community Colleges’ efforts to offer affordable online education. While online learning cannot replace the need for face-to-face training in many health care occupations, this initiative enhances current online opportunities and addresses barriers, such as time constraints, which working health care professionals face when advancing their skills or gaining additional training. This innovative initiative creates an affordable, accessible, and flexible option for working adults seeking training in specific health occupations.”
Cathy Martin, Vice President of Workforce, California Hospital Association (CHA)

"Online skill development has tremendous potential to help those Californians not being well served by the current system to get the skills required for a new job or their next job. Technology is dramatically changing the way we work, and if we don't use technology to be prepared, millions of Californians will never get ahead or will be left behind."
Jim Mayer, President and CEO, California Forward

“Online education, with high-touch support, is the only way to educate the 500,000 healthcare workers needed in the next ten years. The future of care delivery demands healthcare providers be digitally fluent and adapt quickly to new technologies. Online education is long overdue for working adults.”
Rebecca Miller, Workforce Director, SEIU United Health Care Workers, representing 90,000 hospital workers in California

"The Governor's initiative to provide seed funding to foster innovations in California's community colleges is very timely: technology advancements are changing how we work and how we live. Online offerings that complement the physical world will transform how people not only gain the necessary competencies, but also easily upskill or upgrade them as necessary. Online learning environment also imparts valuable competencies such as virtual collaborations, that are critical in the workplaces.”
Dr. Satish Menon, Chief Technology Officer, Shutterfly, Inc. 
(and former CTO of ed-tech companies)

“We look forward to partnering in order to get out the new technology advances in advanced manufacturing. When adults combine that new knowledge with what they already know, it will make them more competitive in the future job market.”
Brynt Parmeter, Director of Workforce Development, Education, and Training, NextFlex (America’s Flexible Hybrid Electrics Manufacturing Institute)

“California’s small to mid-sized manufacturers and technology companies rely on community colleges to train the 21st Century factory worker and keep up with fast emerging technologies.  Often their existing workers don’t have time to get to a community college campus because of work and family responsibilities.  New online courses that bring successful classroom programs into homes will create groundbreaking opportunities for workers and strengthen our state’s manufacturing companies with cutting edge skilled employees.”
Dorothy Rothrock, President, California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA)

Leaders in State Agencies

“An online college option for California’s incarcerated men and women provides alternatives to the current face-to-face and correspondence models. Such alternatives would allow for program expansion and maximization of already limited classroom space.”
Brant Choate, Superintendent, California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR)

“The governor has clearly signaled to us that he cares about providing economic opportunities and the opportunity to prosper for every immigrant in California. This is the opportunity to create that system. What we know is that with the proper partnerships, we definitely consider the community colleges to be one of our premier partners in these educational and training programs, that the opportunity is there and the timing is right. The governor has made that investment in other areas, and I think it’s the right opportunity for the Chancellor’s Office and the community college system to redefine how we serve this population with barriers.”
Jennifer Hernandez, California Labor Agency

“An online community college would really help us reach workers in small- and medium-sized businesses across the state and especially in rural regions. We know of valued credentials that could work well in the online format, that we can underwrite to help these businesses grow.”
Stuart Knox, Executive Director, Employment Training Panel

“Poverty is not only a problem of unemployment. Most low-income Californians are working poor. Many are over-employed—working two or more jobs to make ends meet. Time is a valuable resource. Education and training alone won’t solve poverty as the issues are far more complex. But evidence suggests that college units and certificates can increase income mobility and can lead to further academic achievement. The online college has the potential to meet people where they are, enhance access for people who need flexible schedules, and provide new opportunity to those for whom the traditional bricks-and-mortar college is not the whole answer.”
Tim Rainey, Executive Director, California Workforce Development Board

Share Your Feedback

Public comment is essential to building an online community college to best serve California. Please share your thoughts here.

Meet the Workgroup

National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) worked with the system stakeholders and online thought leaders to develop “Report on Options for an Online, Statewide Community College” that was delivered to the governor. The Kresge Foundation provided funds to underwrite NCHEMS’s participation thanks to the outreach of the Foundation for California Community Colleges and the Success Center.

Meet the Workgroup »

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California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office