The need for Calbright has never been greater: There are roughly 6.8 million Californians ages 25 to 54 who have a high school diploma but no college degree, and a growing number of adults cross the state who are “stranded workers.” Building a statewide public, online, skills-based college designed around the unique needs of working adults is critical to the state’s long-term prosperity.
Not surprisingly, then, Calbright’s enrollment growth continues as public awareness spreads: Over the last fiscal year, Calbright’s student body jumped 167%, and the College now has over 3,200 students.
But higher enrollment is only one key aspect of Calbright’s goals. Another critical element is whether or not students who complete a program experience improved career and economic outcomes.
That’s much harder to track than the number of students, and some information won’t be available for several years. But according to Calbright’s 2023 Milestone Report to the state legislature, the information we do have is encouraging.
Survey Says: A Free Online Community College Designed For Stranded Workers Illustrates Promising Results
Calbright was founded by the state legislature in late 2018 and only began beta testing its pilot programs in late 2019. It revamped its programs significantly in 2020-2021 and began ramping up its student body in 2021-2022. At present, it has awarded 305 certificates of completion for its programs.
This means that, so far, there is minimal long-term information on the career outcomes Calbright students have.
However, alumni survey data strongly suggests Calbright program completion tends to have a positive economic impact for students. According to the survey:
- 100% of alumni responded that they were satisfied with their students at Calbright
- 69% reported being employed after completing their program;
- 54% reported that Calbright’s curriculum had a positive impact on their employment by the time they were responding to the survey; and
- 24% said they had experienced a positive impact on their employment within just three months of program completion
Additionally, in March of 2023 Calbright used LinkedIn data and interviews with a random sampling of 140 program graduates who ranged from completing their programs six or more months prior to only a few days. This review found that 74 of the 140 students had secured gainful employment (and this is most likely undercounting, since graduates who could not be reached and/or who did not list their current employment on LinkedIn were counted as “unemployed”).
So while it’s still in the early stages of data collection, the information we do have strongly suggests that more than half of Calbright graduates, and as many as two thirds, see career improvements following their Calbright education. The longer this data holds up, the more clear it becomes: the Calbright model works.
Collecting More Information Will Help More People
More data is needed, and more is coming. As noted in the 2023 Milestone Report:
“Calbright now participates in the California Community Colleges system’s Launchboard, which is an online database that matches student information in the Chancellor’s Office Management Information System and Employment Development Department Unemployed Insurance files. While Launchboard stands to be a long-term solution for tracking labor market outcomes, it collects information from prior year(s) tax information, and so it is a lagging indicator that will require several years to become viable.“
It will take time, but as Calbright continues to grow so will its ability to track labor market outcomes for graduates, and determine what is and isn’t working to support students. By working with data and iterating on best practices, even results this good can get better.