CC offers online path to low-cost 4-year degree

California’s community colleges are searching for ways to make room for new students and cut wait lists. Inevitably, they’re looking to online courses. Orange County’s Coastline Community College is taking a step further: Coastline is partnering with out-of-state universities to create “low-cost, online bachelor’s degree pathways,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Instead of working with the California State University system, which has its own problems, Coastline turned to the University of Massachusetts Online, Penn State University’s World Campus and the University of Illinois-Springfield. Students would take Coastline courses full-time– on campus or online — in their first year, earning 30 credits, then take a mix of community college and online university classes for two years and another 60 credits. In their fourth year, they’d take 30 credits of “capstone” courses at the online university.

A bachelor’s degree is expected to run 30 to 40 percent less than the for-profit college cost, Coastline officials say.

The college is a natural spot for an online experiment in the state’s community college system. It lacks a traditional campus, with three small locations around Orange County and a focus on distance education and serving members of the military. Most Coastline students take at least one class remotely.

“It operates more like a Rio Salado model,” said Stella Perez, executive vice president and chief operating officer at the League for Innovation in the Community College, referring to the fully online community college in Arizona’s Maricopa system. “It’s a college without walls.”

The League is overseeing the “Learning First” pilot, which has $450,000 in Gates Foundation funding.

With the new online degrees, Coastline hopes to cut its wait list in half and enroll 10,000 additional students.