During the recent fiscal crisis, enrollment in California’s community colleges has dropped substantially as classes have been cut to meet reduced budgets.
One college is experimenting with innovative online offerings in an attempt to expand the range of available courses and accommodate more scholars.
California’s Coastline Community College is set to create low-cost, online bachelor’s degree pathways where students can enroll simultaneously at one of three public universities, none of which are in California.
The new partnership between Coastline and the University of Massachusetts Online, Penn State University’s World Campus and the University of Illinois-Springfield should go live next spring. The project’s leaders hope it will serve as a model for expanding capacity at California’s community colleges, which have been forced to turn away hundreds of thousands of students because of budget cuts.
Community college leaders in the state are already searching for new ways to meet student demand. An official with the 112-college California community college system said the central office is in the early phases of considering online credit pathways with the help of outside providers, perhaps even through massive open online courses (MOOCs).
“The California Community Colleges are working with colleges and other government agencies to develop a strategy to respond to current innovations in online course delivery, including MOOCs,” Paul Feist, a spokesman in the system chancellor’s office, said via e-mail.
The program at Coastline could be part of the solution. Its leaders said one of the chief goals is to be an online option for California’s students that could compete with for-profit institutions, in part by undercutting them on price. Bachelor’s degrees earned in the joint-enrollment track should run 30 to 40 percent cheaper than similar offerings from for-profits, they said.
With the new online degrees, Coastline hopes to cut its wait list in half and to enroll an estimated 10,000 additional students. That’s because students will be enrolled jointly at Coastline and the online universities for the second half of their associate programs.
The college is a natural spot for an online experiment in the state’s community college system. It lacks a traditional campus, with three small locations around Orange County and a focus on distance education and serving members of the military. Most Coastline students take at least one class remotely.
“It operates more like a Rio Salado model,” said Stella Perez, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the League for Innovation in the Community College, referring to the fully online community college in Arizona’s Maricopa system. “It’s a college without walls.”
Calif. community college goes out-of-state with online degree partnerships (Inside Higher Ed | News)