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The Best Year Yet: What Calbright Achieved In 2023

Calbright began 2023 as It finishes the year as  

That is just the beginning of how the College has changed.

In 2023, Calbright earned full accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a federally recognized accreditation body. It’s a major accomplishment, indicating the quality and integrity of our programs, achieved a year-and-a-half ahead of the deadline in the College’s founding legislation.

That founding legislation, which outlined a seven-year start-up period for the College to build this new model of learning and establish core infrastructure.

The first few years were spent getting organized and building up our systems. By 2022, it was clear that we had found innovative new methods to support California’s “stranded workers” and help them transition their careers into technology. But we still had to put these approaches into practice and make them work.

2023 is the year where we finally hit our stride.

Here’s just a sample of Calbright’s year for the history books.

More Students, From All Walks of life, Better Supported

Calbright’s mission begins and ends with its students, and this has been a major year for student success:

  • Our enrollment has more than doubled since the beginning of the year, and is approaching a student body of 4,000.
  • The number of certificates of completion we’ve awarded has also more than doubled, exceeding 435 in total.

Our students and graduates are significantly more diverse than those of either conventional community colleges or online programs:

  • More than 90% of Calbright students are at least 25 years old, and 41% are over 40
  • Over 70% of students identify as a member of the BIPOC community
  • Nearly a third are parents
  • The majority are unemployed or working part time

Our students also have higher persistence rates than those of other community colleges and online programs, which shows the effectiveness of Calbright’s unique model and also the shared challenge of nurturing success for adult learners.

We’ve also instituted new opportunities for peer-to-peer mentorship and developed innovative approaches that help keep remote students connected and on track in their studies.

All of that pays off in the results our students see. According to surveys conducted this past year, more than half of Calbright graduates, and as many as two thirds, said they had career improvements following their Calbright education. 

More students, more diversity, more graduates, great results. That alone makes for an impactful 2023.  

New Programs, New Opportunities

As Calbright earned accreditation, it also launched two new programs: 

  • A Data Analysis program intended to help people gain what experts see as one of the essential workplace skills for upwardly mobile jobs, and 
  • A Network Technology program to help make a rapidly expanding set of new jobs accessible to people already in the tech industry or looking to enter it.

At the same time, even more programs have been designed and approved, and will be ready to launch in 2024. We are set up for further growth. 

Calbright also inaugurated its student government, initiated student clubs, launched speaker series and events for students, and offered opportunities for mentorship and support. Calbright formally ratified its first agreement with its new staff union as it grew the size of the Calbright team by roughly 75 people in 2023, and now has more than 125 full-time employees.   

Supportive Partners, Important Research

That success didn’t go unnoticed, neither by the press nor by Calbright’s institutional partners.

During the 2023 budget cycle, Calbright received robust support from a diverse coalition of more than 20 organizations and agencies.   

Calbright developed and launched its first joint program with a sister California Community College, which also fulfills a legislative mandate. We created an opportunity with Bakersfield Community College for Calbright Data Analysis graduates to matriculate into a paid apprenticeship program that is hosted by Bakersfield.

Calbright likewise launched research partnerships to develop new best practices in online learning with UC Irvine and behavioral design non-profit ideas42. Calbright conducted a survey with Compton Community College of Los Angeles County adults without college degrees who are looking for educational opportunities, to assess their needs and how to meet them. 

Calbright also partnered with Axim Collaborative to launch the Engaging Adult Learners in Higher Education track of the 2023-2024 Learning Engineering Tools Competition, a multi-million dollar competition for edtech innovation that will take place throughout the 2023-2024 fiscal year and beyond.

Moving At The Speed Of Industry

The past year has seen more students and graduates, with better outcomes, more partnerships and institutional connections and support, leading to new research and development for online higher education, and more programs and recognition as Calbright has added more opportunities for its students.  

Officially, Calbright still has two years to go on its “start-up” period, but as 2023 comes to a close and Calbright staff and executives develop the vision for our next few years, we are confident in our operations and ability to serve California’s adult learners.

It’s been our best year yet, and far more is yet to come.

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