Much of the discussion around online education has focused on the potential of private sector “disruptors” to use the internet to make college faster, better, and cheaper.
But for the most part, that potential has never been lived up to – and many private, for-profit, online colleges have been accused of predatory tactics, command substantial tuition dollars, offer little value, and even leave students worse off than before they enrolled.
Meanwhile, study after study has shown that public colleges continue to deliver the best value and access for students.
Now the U.S. News and World Reports ranking of colleges and universities makes that clear: the overwhelming majority of the “Top 10” online bachelor degree programs in America are offered by public colleges.
Because of ties for the top spots, there are actually 12 “Top 10” online colleges for bachelors degrees. Eleven of them are public institutions.
It’s not that public colleges can’t learn something from private sector moon shot attempts at innovation, but the mission, accountability, and transparency that come with a public education system clearly deliver valuable results, and at a lower cost. When you combine this with new research that the mere presence of a public college or university in an area benefits the local economy, then the case for federal and state investment in our public system of higher education is clear.
Public colleges and universities get the best return on investment. That’s as true for online colleges as it is for traditional brick-and-mortar schools, and we can go farther. At Calbright, we are reinventing college, and creating an accessible public option for higher education.
Our programs are focused on workforce development and supporting communities of non-traditional students across California to prepare for new careers, move up within their current organization, and/or upskill to grow alongside a rapidly evolving economy. We don’t offer bachelor’s degrees, we offer certificates for job skills in growing sectors like IT Support and Salesforce Administration, which can be earned quickly while learners move forward on a flexible schedule. There’s no cost to students – it’s all paid for by the State of California.
Calbright is California’s first public free online community college.
The public sector’s already dominating the field of online education. This kind of innovation can make it even better.