Educators Praise Decision to Audit Online College

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
The state has ordered a $375,000 audit of Calbright College. Photo Credit: Calbright

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Education groups are praising a unanimous decision by a legislative committee Wednesday February 26 to audit the state’s first online community college, called Calbright College.

Lawmakers expressed concern about transparency and duplication of current offerings. Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, says the $140 million invested in Calbright would have been better spent bolstering online programs at existing community colleges.

“Could have done it cheaper, could have done it with the expertise of the faculty that are already employed by our community colleges,” says Freitas.

Calbright College launched on October first and has 450 students enrolled, but just 38 who are pursuing certificates in medical coding, IT or cybersecurity. Its goal is to help working adults get flexible, low-cost job training.

CFT Community College Council president Jim Mahler says the funding imbalance in favor of Calbright is stark.

“If you look at the funding per full time equivalent student at Calbright,” says Mahler, “they’re being funded at the rate of 1,000 times what the rest of our students are getting funded at our traditional community colleges.”

Carlos Turner Cortez is president of San Diego Continuing Education, part of the San Diego Community College District, which is launching its own online education program.

“The cost of launching ICOM Academy was $500,000 – less than 1% of the investment put in Calbright,” says Cortez. “We could do a lot more to support student success by reinvesting that funding in existing districts that are aiming to expand distance-education opportunities.”

Calbright has no full-time faculty and has been criticized for awarding a no-bid executive-recruitment contract to a friend of the former college president.