Steinberg Unveils Measure to Provide Online College Courses for Credit

March 13, 2013

Statewide System would be First in the Nation

(Sacramento) – A measure designed to increase access to California college and university classes and help hundreds of thousands of students avoid delays in completing their degree courses is being introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg. SB 520 would create a first-of-its-kind statewide network of faculty-approved online college courses for credit.

“The California Master Plan for Higher Education promised open access to all, yet thousands of students are struggling to complete their degrees and going deeper in college debt because there simply aren’t enough classroom seats available in the courses they need,” said Steinberg (D-Sacramento). “We need to tear down these barriers. We want to lead the nation in melding technology with our great institutions of higher learning. No college student in California should be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat for the course they needed. “

SB 520 as amended, co-authored by former college faculty member and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens),  would provide online college courses for credit for the 50 most over-subscribed lower division courses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. The online courses would only be available for students unable to enroll due to space limitations in impacted on-campus classes necessary to complete programs or meet General Education requirements, or to fulfill requirements to transfer from a community college to a four-year institution.

The online courses would require rigorous review and approval by a nine-member college faculty council, comprised of three members each from the Academic Senates of the UC, CSU and California Community College systems. When online education providers submit courses for approval, the council will consider how the course provides interaction between instructors and students and the provisions for a proctored assessment and exam process to ensure academic integrity and accurate measurement of student learning.

“The need for this online lifeline for students is critical,” said Steinberg. Last fall, 80 percent of the state’s 112 community college campuses reported waitlists for classes. On average, that equates to about 7,000 enrolled students forced onto a waitlist at each campus. Only 16 percent of CSU students, and 60 percent of UC students, are finishing their degrees within four years due in large part to impacted classes.

SB 520 was detailed during an online press conference today with Pro Tem Steinberg, joined by Assemblymember Garcia; Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego), Chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education; Richard Copenhagen, President of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges; and Michelle Pilati, President of the statewide Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In addition, Dr. Sebastian Thrun, co-founder and CEO of Udacity, an online private education provider, joined the conversation via Google Hangout, along with several education reporters from across the state.

Please find attached a fact sheet and draft language of SB 520 as amended. The press conference will be archived later today at http://smc.calegis.net/budget2013

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