Goals on highway road of empty asphalt road at beautiful sunset.

How Calbright’s Strategic Vision Supports California’s Education Roadmap

At the end of 2023, the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges (CCC) system released a 2030 roadmap, calling for the state’s community colleges to focus, among several things, on non-traditional students – the kind of students Calbright was designed to serve.  

Significant numbers of adults left the CCC system during the “great recession,” and even more left during the Covid-19 pandemic. This represents a crisis for millions of workers who need higher education to improve their careers, and for California’s economy, which needs well educated and highly skilled workers to fill essential jobs in companies statewide. Workers cannot participate in California’s knowledge economy if they don’t have access to education. The 2030 roadmap calls on colleges to work to reverse this decline. California Governor Gavin Newsom further highlighted this goal in the 2022-2023 California state budget by establishing a goal that 70% of working age Californians hold a post-secondary degree or certificate of attainment by 2030.

California’s education system, as it is currently designed, can’t get there. We’ll have to re-imagine college. That’s the work Calbright has already done. By the end of 2023, Calbright demonstrated the impact of its new educational model that not only better reaches non-traditional students, but better supports them. Calbright has proven that it can be a better option for many of California’s “stranded workers” – underemployed adults with no college degree who need to transform their careers and better their lives. After three years of using its current model of free, competency-based online education, the early data says we’re getting it right. 

In its new Strategic Vision for 2024-2027, Calbright is setting goals to continue those improvements as it scales, getting positive results with thousands more Californians.  

A College Made For You – Embracing California’s Diversity

Even before the end of its 2021-2023 Strategic Vision, it was clear that Calbright is successfully recruiting a more diverse student body than its sister California Community Colleges, which are already significantly more diverse than most traditional colleges. Calbright achieved this by making its programs work for diverse students in its target populations, rather than by restricting access. The college automatically enrolls any adult Californian with a high school diploma or equivalent who applies. No one is turned away. 

The results speak for themselves:

  • More than 90% of Calbright students are at least 25 years old (compared to about 36% across the CCC system).
  • Nearly a third of Calbright students are parents or caregivers (compared to 10% across the CCC).
  • Calbright looks like California; 35.4% of Calbright students identify as Latinx, 22.3% 22.3% as Black, 22% as Asian, 4.8% as Native American, and 3.1% as Native Hawaiian or Pacific islander.
  • Calbright represents California: Calbright has students in 52 of California’s 58 counties, including many rural counties where there are no local colleges.

In its new Strategic Vision period, in support of the CCC Chancellor’s 2030 road map,  Calbright’s goal is to maintain that diversity as it reaches more students, growing its student body to 7000 active students by the end of 2027.

Enrolled And On Track

The dynamic is the same with student persistence. The goal isn’t just to get more students through the door: it’s to help finish their education. By late 2023, the end of its last Strategic Vision period, Calbright had student persistence rates that far exceeded those of traditional colleges serving similar populations: in the CCC system, 60% of students will move from their first term to their second – the remaining students leave. At Calbright, over 90% of students move from their first term to their second. 

That means doing what we’re already doing, yes, but also continuing to experiment with new approaches and to test new interventions. As the new Strategic Vision notes, there’s a research gap on what works for adult learners, noting: “CCC and national data shows that adult learners have struggled to return to school and complete their degrees and they are rarely the beneficiaries of data-driven endeavors designed to support their needs.”

Calbright is committed not just to implementing its established best practices, but to finding new ones, rapid testing them, and putting the ones that work to use. It then shares what it knows with the other CCC colleges, potentially providing new and better support for millions of students. 

Career Success Is The Ultimate Goal

Perhaps the most significant statistics are also the hardest to come by: It’s easy to measure how many students a college gets, and how many of them stay in school and complete their programs. It’s hard to measure how much those programs help them in their careers. There’s no central database you can check, and no one’s required to tell you when they get a new job or a raise.

Still, what information we do have suggests that Calbright’s programs lead to more career success for a majority of graduates, estimating that between one-half and two-thirds of students who completed a Calbright program either got a job or improved working conditions (like a raise) as a result of their program.

According to the most recent reports:  

  • 100% of alumni responded that they were satisfied with their studies 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.

Once again, these results significantly exceed the CCC systems 28% learner employment rate for students following program completion.  

And once again, the goal is to retain and improve on these results as Calbright scales up to nearly twice its current size.  

Additionally, Calbright plans to establish a system to better find and record student career outcomes – not just whether they’re employed, by the type of jobs, income levels, whether remote working is possible, and more.  

By achieving these goals, Calbright will not just improve its own student outcomes, but create better systems available to its fellow California Community Colleges in support of the ambitious goals put forward by the Governor and the Chancellor. It’s not just that we can do it, we already are doing it. 

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