In a column published in Monday's Sacramento Bee, William Tierney had an interesting "big idea" and several recommendations to make it a reality. The big idea? That private non-profit and for-profit institutions band together to serve Californians who are shut out of the California State University and community colleges because of budget cuts and enrollment caps.
Tierney's larger point is that California will suffer possibly irreparable economic and demographic damage downstream if a generation of learners are denied access to post-secondary education over the next several years. And he notes that there is significant capacity in the private higher education sector to meet the needs that are currently unmet.
This is a challenge that should not and cannot go unmet. If we are able to put some of our petty practices aside in service towards a larger good, it would be a red letter day for American higher education.
Tierney's proposals to move towards a more comprehensive, effective, and efficient coalition to meet the outstanding need include 1. a common course numbering system to eliminate the insidious practice of reducing credit awards when learners move between institutions and 2. Allowing new models, like KNEXT, Kaplan University, or Western Governor's University into the state with state endorsement and aid support.
I would like to add an idea that would catalyze Tierney's proposal into action: the California Completion Coalition (CCC). The CCC would welcome as members all regionally accredited institutions that agreed to honor all credits earned at other regionally accredited institutions, including general education and elective credits, up to their current transfer limits. Participating institutions would agree to be transparent to the learners about credit recognition, and remaining time and cost to the degree on their institutional websites. By simply committing to those terms of engagement, the door would be open for an "access and completion" website listing all participating institutions for learners' information.
Using this approach, un-served learners would know what institutions and programs are available and where and how they would be delivered, as well as transfer transparency and time and cost to the attainment of whatever the students' goals are. Let's build this idea real time and, in so doing, break new ground educationally, while using the web to help solve the crisis that is coming.