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Brown calls for more online courses at California colleges

San Jose State University President Mohammad Qayoumi, right, laughs as California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/San Jose Mercury News, Gary Reyes)

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — Gov. Jerry Brown is pressing the University of California system to bring more courses online to help make college more accessible and affordable.

Brown was expected to urge university leaders to expand online education when he attends the UC Board of Regents meeting in San Francisco on Wednesday. At his request, the UC board will hear from the founders of Coursera, edX and Udacity, which provide so-called massive online open courses, or MOOCs, that are attracting legions of students and reshaping the landscape of higher education.

The 10-campus UC system offers about 250 for-credit online courses at the undergraduate and graduate level, but the vast majority of them are for specific degree programs. The recently launched UC Online Education program offers 12 general-education courses approved for credit at all undergraduate campuses.

In his 2013-2014 budget, Brown has proposed giving California's public colleges and universities more money. In return, he wants them to hold down costs, stop raising tuition and embrace digital learning. His budget plan sets aside about $37 million to develop online college courses.

The Democratic governor was at San Jose State University on Tuesday when campus officials announced partnership with Udacity to offer low-cost, entry-level classes for credit for students inside and outside the California State University system. The pilot program will begin offering three courses for $150 each starting later this month. The California State University campus charges in-state undergraduates about $620 for similar classroom-based courses.

The initiative kicked off this summer when the governor called Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun and asked him to help develop digital courses for California colleges.

Brown said Tuesday the goal is to allow students to "graduate quicker so they don't carry this big load of debt on their backs for the next 25 years," noting that only 16 percent of Cal State students graduate in four years.

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