Calbright: We’re Launching a Nontraditional College for the New “Traditional” Learner

group photo of calbright employees

Did you know that more than 80 percent of college students are older than 22, financially on their own, caring for a dependent, enrolled part-time and living off-campus? As shocking as that statistic might be to many people, it is very real and believable to the millions of adult learners who are living in that reality. That’s why we need a new kind of college. 

Calbright is exactly that. And that’s why I am thrilled that today we begin registering our first working adult learners.

The world around us has changed, and higher education must be responsive to who the new “traditional” students are. What do these learners need? They need an education that creates an affordable pathway to a good-paying job. They also need a structure that is efficient and flexible. These earners literally don’t have the time or money for an exercise that doesn’t improve their current situation.

Calbright is built for low- and moderate-income working adults, and it’s debt-free. Thanks to a combination of investments from the state of California and partnerships with employers, Calbright won’t cost one penny to the California learners who enroll.

Through Job Competency Training™, Calbright will prepare hard-working adults for placement in stable new economy jobs with great California employers. We’re guided by four key principles:

  1. Calbright will be free to all adult learners who are residents of California;
  2. We’re employer-backed, because we believe companies should pay for the workforce development from which they benefit;
  3. We will offer competency-based education for specific job opportunities at specific companies that is designed to be delivered in months, not years; and
  4. Everyone at Calbright will be dedicated to serving Californians—our learners, communities across the state, and employers.

So, how does it work? Everyone who has expressed interest in our first three programs — medical coding, cyber security and IT support — has been invited to officially apply. Others who have heard of Calbright can visit to get started. Once applications are received, each applicant will be matched with a Learner Advocate who will help to determine which of the available programs is the best fit. From there, each learner receives a learning plan that maps the pathway from coursework to a job. Upon successful completion of the online curricula, the learner will begin a paid apprenticeship with an employer who is a Calbright partner. 

As with any effort at this scale, it takes many, many people to make it happen. First, I want to say I am deeply grateful to a group of dedicated educators who are current and former California Community Colleges faculty. They lent their subject-matter expertise, often in addition to working at their day jobs, to ensure the Job Training Programs and our Essentials curriculum came to life.They worked with employers to understand the required competencies in hard-to-fill jobs, and then reverse engineered those competencies into self-paced online training modules. 

The Calbright team has also been focused on imagining all the ways learners may want or need support along their journeys, for which I’m additionally grateful. Our system of online support begins with pre-registration and goes all the way through post-employment. The goal is to generate not only successful learning outcomes, but successful career outcomes. We want to end generational poverty while providing employers with well-prepared, motivated, and productive new employees.

Through this work, everyone wins. This is a big win for California residents who’ve been unable to access traditional higher education resources; a win for California’s employers who will have a whole new pipeline of qualified talent; and a big win for the State of California, where the economy will benefit from a more resilient and adaptable workforce.

With those ends in mind, I want to also thank all the stakeholders who got us here, including our dedicated partners in trade and labor unions; California’s leading employers and community-based organizations; policy makers; the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office; the Foundation for California Community Colleges; the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges; and, most importantly, the Calbright College Board of Trustees, who are all volunteers putting their best into making us successful every day.

We would not have reached this milestone without their guidance, support and partnership. We’re grateful.

The only thing that will make us more grateful is when we see our first class of graduates placed in great jobs that pay well and are aligned to their new skills. 

I can’t wait!