A new bill would let California’s higher-ed students earn credits through online courses if classrooms are full.

California could become the first state in the nation to require its public colleges to address overcrowding by accepting credits for private-sector online courses that would enable tens of thousands of students shut out of classes to move along.

A bill introduced March 13 to set up the online education alternative is the latest example of state leaders turning to technology to fix bottlenecks and other problems in higher education that reached a breaking point during the state budget crisis.

“No college student should be denied the right to complete their education because they could not get a seat in the course they needed in order to graduate,” said the bill’s co-author, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. “This is not technology for technology’s sake. It addresses a real challenge.”

One of more than a half-dozen online education bills floating through the Legislature, SB 520 would create approved online courses for the roughly 50 high-demand, lower-level classes that routinely put students on waiting lists.

(Next page: The bill’s specifics; educators’ reactions)

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