Community Colleges at the Center of Gov. Brown’s 2018-19 Higher Education Plan

Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to use $120 million of the 2018-19 state budget to create a fully-online college for working adults. More specifically, Governor Brown proposes to allocate $100 million to set up the new online college and $20 million for ongoing funding. While the proposal targets working adults over the age of 25 who are unenrolled users, it will be interesting to see how this new proposal addresses potential concerns around enrollment.

Although the proposal states that Governor Brown’s creation of an online college, “will not impact traditional community colleges’ enrollment because its enrollment base will be working adults that are not currently accessing higher education,” it remains to be seen if working adults (ages 25-35), the targeted population, are the majority of those who enroll. The trend across the U.S. has been that more students are opting out of the traditional route of physically attending an institution.  

A recent report by Babson Study Research Group shows that the number of students studying on campus decreased by 6.4 percent (totalling more than 1 million students) from 2012 to 2016, while distance education has steadily increased over the last 14 years. However, the 2018-19 plan also incentivizes student success by proposing a new funding formula for community colleges that is less reliant on enrollment figures. A step in the right direction, the Governor proposes a student-centric formula that rewards student success outcomes, including, timely completion and prioritizing underrepresented students.

Improved Funding Formula for California Community Colleges, allocating $175M across 3 grants:
  • 50% of funds determined by enrollment
  • 25% of funds determined by low-income students enrolled: College Promise and Pell Grant recipients.
  • 25% of funds determined by performance metrics: the number of degrees/certificates granted and time to degree.

Over the next few months, the budget subcommittees in both houses of the Legislature will hold hearings to discuss the issues in Governor Brown’s proposal. In an effort to support flexible postsecondary pathways for all students, we offer a couple of things to consider that may impact their decision to enroll in a fully online public community college:

  • Will this new online college cost less than other community colleges?
  • Will it condense and accelerate credentialing?
  • What kind of degree options and pathways will it offer?

One thing is clear, Governor Brown’s online community college includes a long list of supporters bought into the vision for a new competency-based online college responding to the upskilling needs of California’s working adults, including the Michelson 20MM Foundation.  After all, working adults deserve access to affordable and flexible postsecondary opportunities, such as those brick and mortar community colleges currently offer to millions of students each year.

The 2018-19 Budget Plan also includes modest increases to California State University and University of California’s General Funds by three percent each; with added stipulations to drive completion rates.

For more information on the online community college visit

About the Michelson 20MM Foundation

The Michelson 20MM Foundation supports and invests in leading edge entrepreneurs, technologies, and initiatives with the potential to transform learning and improve access to educational opportunities that lead to meaningful careers. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned inventor and spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson, and his wife, Alya Michelson.

To learn more visit Follow us on twitter @Michelson20MM