Enrollment at Calbright College in California topped 2,000 students in March, nearly double what it was a year ago — a milestone for an institution that state lawmakers have sought to close last year.
According to Mackenzie Smith, director of communications for the college, Calbright, which awards certificates rather than degrees, attributes a steady increase in enrollment to its emphasis on student-centered design.
The college has seen solid gains since July 2021, when it had fewer than 500 students, according to Calbright. Its student population reached 1,000 before slowing at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, from March to May 2022. But since July 2022, Calbright has been adding just over a hundred students per month.
The institution only online has devised several strategies to facilitate registration and access to services for prospective students. He rethought his website and launched information sessions for prospective students, with about a third of attendees eventually deciding to enroll, according to Smith.
Calbright, a free public community college for California residents, opened in 2019. It was created to boost economic mobility in the state and help working adults earn degrees that will increase their earning potential.
Almost all Calbright students, 92%, are 25 or older, with the median age in the late 30s, according to the college. And 1 in 3 students are caregivers, a demographic that faces increased obstacles to complete the credentials.
Calbright awarded 110 certificates in 2022, up from 43 in 2021, the college said. On average, students graduate in less than a year, although this varies by program, Smith said.
Previous administrative obstacles
The enrollment and graduation milestones are good news for Calbright, which has struggled with administrative issues since its launch.
President and CEO of Calbright resigned in early 2020and the college avoided calls from state lawmakers to pay it back later this year and in 2022. In 2021, a state audit recommended the closure of the establishment if it did not improve parameters such as student support services.
Calbright’s most recent improvements, however, failed to excite the California Federation of Teachers, according to its president, Jeff Freitas. The union represents more than 120,000 education employees in the state, including 30,000 who work at community colleges.
“We’re not impressed with the numbers based on the extraordinary amount of money and resources that were wasted on Calbright,” Freitas said. “We continue to believe that Calbright is an essential waste of funding that belongs to our traditional community colleges, which are already doing a superior job of educating our students in person and online.”
Calbright received $15 million in annual funding from the California state budget, the college says budget summary for the 2022-2023 academic year. The state also gave Calbright $71 million in one-time seed funding when it launched.
Following the auditor’s report, CFT requested reinvest Calbright State funding in traditional community colleges.
California Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, who co-sponsored a bill to close Calbright in 2022, could not be reached for comment on Monday.
But Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration applauded the enrollment milestone and remained staunchly supportive of the college’s mission.
“CalBright embodies California’s student-centric values - meeting working students where they are, cultivating lifelong learning, and preparing graduates for career success,” said Ben Chida. , Chief Secretary to the Governor’s Assistant Cabinet. “It’s exciting to see real lives improve.”
Newsom was a strong supporter of Calbright, as was his predecessor, former Governor Jerry Brown, who helped found the college.
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