David Clemens writes for the Martin Center about California Gov. Jerry Brown’s “dream” for higher education.

Historically, California has always attracted dreamers and today one of the state’s biggest dreamers is Governor Jerry Brown, who once said, “A politician can do anything he wants so long as he manipulates the right symbols.” More likely, a new education initiative of his is about to collide with reality.

A critic of Brown once said that he often acts like someone “who feels thinking about something is the same as doing it.”

Unfortunately, at the moment, Brown is thinking about higher education; specifically, he is thinking about reinventing California’s vast community college system as a high-powered engine for economic transformation and social uplift. The first step is what he calls “the California Online College” (COC) for “overlooked Californians,” but his plan includes assumptions that are ominous for all of higher education.

In his 2018 budget proposal, Brown asked for $120 million to create a “competency-based,” “high-touch,” online community college offering courses leading to “sub-associate degree” certificates and badges for California’s 2.5 million underemployed, “stranded” workers without college degrees. Like many politicians, Brown assumes that it is the lack of college credentials that holds back all these people. He wants his new program to launch this fall.

What could go wrong? Plenty. The plan is ill-considered with a sketchy, back-of-the-envelope feel to it.