In the beginning...

The State of California established Calbright College in July, 2018 as the first statewide, online community college district.

Calbright was established because capable, hardworking people are looking to improve their careers through education, but are falling through the cracks of the labor market and traditional forms of education and job training. These communities are increasingly disconnected in today’s rapidly evolving economy – not all students can commute to a campus, or take time away from their family to attend class every Tuesday evening.

We’re here to change that.

Nontraditional students aren’t served well by higher education – this is a shared challenge here in California and across the country. During the COVID pandemic they left higher education at some of the highest rates. Through Calbright, the State of California established a public, accessible, and supportive alternative to traditional forms of higher education: one that is focused on students’ career goals and built with their needs at the center of its design.

On the cutting edge of education reform.

The factors that make us a new and unique kind of institution.


We use a new model of education that evaluates students on what they know, not how long they spend in a classroom.


We provide significant support to students, offering multiple points of contact and a human connection rather than a digital divide.


We're specifically aimed at the needs of non-traditional students and “stranded workers" seeking new job opportunities.

Accepts All

Calbright accepts all qualified applicants that apply — CA residents over 18 with a high school diploma or GED equivalent.

Our First Students

We began enrolling our first students in October of 2019 as part of a “beta cohort” to test this new model of education — a model which had never been tried before. Because our systems were new and untested, this cohort was deliberately kept small: only a few hundred students.

The coronavirus pandemic, which reached our shores in early 2020, severely disrupted not only the educational environment, but the lives of all our students.

Calbright’s senior administration also changed in 2020, with our first members of the executive team departing and a new incoming team of leaders here to replace them. By the end of our beta cohort in the fall of 2020, significant lessons had been learned about delivering supportive, online, competency-based education to Calbright’s target population.  These lessons were incorporated into the next iteration of Calbright’s educational model, which is currently experiencing significant, high-quality enrollment growth.

High Quality, Scalable Growth

In 2021, Calbright’s new administration established a strategic vision for our next three years, a plan which calls for over 5,000 actively enrolled students, hundreds of graduates, and 10 unique programs —  all by the end of 2023.

In February 2022, Calbright hit a significant milestone in this plan: 1,000 actively enrolled students, and five active programs. Thus far, Calbright has achieved every goal its founding legislation set — on time, and ahead of schedule. A top priority for the near future is acquiring accreditation from a federally-recognized accrediting agency, which we also expect to complete by the end of 2023.

Jerry Brown
Former Governor of California

“With respect to higher education, it is clear just how much of our prosperity depends on the intellectual contributions of our institutions of higher learning. National leaders come from all over the world to visit California’s most innovative companies. Companies that are filled with highly educated and creative men and women—many of whom graduated from our public colleges and universities… Even with so many of our students attending college, there are still 2.5 million Californians between 25 and 34 who are in the workforce, but lack a postsecondary degree or certificate. These men and women often go out of state or pay high tuition at for-profit institutions to improve their skills and employability. For this group, I want to create the California Online College so these overlooked Californians can get the training they need conveniently and at very low cost.”

What Comes Next?

To see where we’ve been and where we’re going, take a look at this timeline from our 2021 Strategic Vision.