Ashley A Smith
March 24, 2022
For the third consecutive year, Calbright College, the state’s only online community college, faces a legislative attempt to shut it down for good.
“I have not seen anything that points toward progress,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, author of Assembly Bill 2820, which would shut down the college. “I did have recent conversations with them, and I did see a small uptick in completion, but I’m still not positive.”
Medina said he’s disappointed that so few students are completing Calbright’s certificate programs. Only 70 completed a certificate by the end of 2021 when the college reported 748 enrolled students.
“That number is very low,” Medina said referring to the number of students who have completed certificates. “And there’s still a lot of students that have stopped out.”
Medina insists there are better uses for the millions of dollars the state gives to the college.
Calbright is a free, self-paced alternative to traditional colleges intended to serve adults between the ages of 25 and 34 who lack college degrees 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 and not the amount of time they spend in a class.
Medina’s bill would close the college by January 2024 and reallocate Calbright’s funding to basic need centers and student housing for the other 115 community colleges, with at least $5 million supporting students with dependent children. The bill doesn’t 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, which Medina chairs.
By the end of this fiscal year, Calbright will have received $60 million in one-time funding and $15 million in ongoing dollars from the state.
As of Tuesday, Calbright reported its enrollment climbed to 1,010, up from 930 students as of February 2022, when nearly 66% of students were reported to be enrolled in information technology courses. Calbright started in October 2019 with more than 300 students with plans to maintain enrollment at about 400 students as it developed programming. Last year, the college began pushing for more students and saw enrollment increase from 590 students in November to 748 by the end of December.
Former employees have publicly raised questions to Calbright’s trustees about how active students are in the program.