Calbright College Sparks Criticism on Online Learning

Alexa Bautista

California’s newest community college has created a stir for many lawmakers. 

Calbright College, created by former Governor Brown, is a fully online community college to support and prepare working adults and hiring managers to build skills in medical coding, IT, and cybersecurity. With the economic crisis in California, state lawmakers and faculty unions have pushed the notion to eliminate Calbright College.

Calbright College was first proposed in 2017 and passed into law in June of 2018. Moreover, California spent $100 million to launch the college. Calbright College started their pilot programs in Oct. of 2019 and currently has 526 students enrolled in their three programs. The college currently has $117 million from its startup fund and would be receiving an additional $17 million from Governor Newsom’s proposed budget. 

Jennifer Dawgert-Carlin, department chair of behavioral science, said that many online classes at City College are already successful which should be funded than Calbright. This is success from online classes is the result from training programs professors have in order to teach the correct way of teaching these certain classes.

“I think that Calbright was an interesting idea that I think that the community colleges were doing a lot prior to Calbright,” Carlin said. “At City College, we have such a strong faculty training program for teaching online. Some schools really don’t have the capacity to do the kind of training that we do here at City College.” 

Carlin added: “Because of this training, we’ve been seeing really great results especially in my department. When I see Calbright, I think that we’re already doing that at City College. Why not fund what we’re doing here to just expand it than to create something new.”

Many critics have mentioned that Calbright College is only duplicating traditional California Community College programs that are not receiving enough funding and are at risk of elimination due to budget cuts. 

The Legislative Analyst’s May revision proposals estimated that by eliminating Calbright College could save $137 million. The legislature agreed that the state budget would include allocating more than $100 million to support the 114 other California Community Colleges. 


Wynd Kaufmyn, vice president of AFT 2121 and engineering instructor, recenlty wrote and op-ed titled  “A Fully Online College is a Foolish Endeavor.” In it she shared her thoughts about how the $100 million that underwrites the Online College could support a variety of organizations.

“I can’t think of a more wrongheaded way to waste $100 million than on the governor’s proposal for a fully online college,” shw said. “Not only is it unnecessary, duplicative, and expensive; it’s counterproductive. It will ensure the failure of the very students that it targets for success.” Kaufmyn added: “Instead of wasting money reinventing the wheel, wouldn’t it be smarter to invest in the State Chancellor’s Office Online Education Initiative (OEI) where students and workers from anywhere in California can currently take classes at any California community college.”

As a result, according to the June 2020 to 2021 Assembly report on the proposed budget, the Calbright Board of Trustees must develop a closure plan by Dec. 2020. Moreover, the legislature would redirect $75 million from Calbright College “to support a basic needs, learning loss, COVID 19 response block grant to colleges to support expenses such as mental health services, housing and food insecurity, re-engagement for students who left college in Spring 2020, technology and development of online courses and student supports.” 

Lastly, the legislature would increase “support for the part-time faculty office hours and compensation programs by about $10.6 million,” the report said.

Many students have been taking advantage of the different available options that are still on campus, such as online tutoring and counseling for their needs during the suspension of classes. Despite these services, students and faculty alike conclude that online learning isn’t for everyone.

Malaika Finkelstein, president of AFT 2121, said many faculty members have adjusted to online learning very well, whereas others agree that face-to-face learning would be much more suitable for certain students to succeed.

“Of course, in the pandemic, most of us have to work remotely. I’ve heard some union members say that as they’ve learned how to do it , they’ve found that they’ve learned how to do it, they’ve found that they like aspects of distance education.,” she said. “But others have found the opposite; distance education simply doesn’t work for everyone.” 

Finkelstein added: “Some of our students don’t have internet access, or the computer skills and literacy needed to succeed in an online class. And from a union perspective, many of our members have found that distance education creates a dramatic increase in our workload.”

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