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Case Study: Affordable Internet and Devices for California Community College

The Foundation for California Community Colleges collaborates with 73 community college districts and 116 colleges across California. Beginning in 2014, long before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foundation prioritized digital equity by making broadband and technology tools for learning continuously available and more affordable for learners in California. They developed programs that wove broadband access with virtual essential support resources, secured by community colleges and government leaders—such as learning management systems, online libraries and tutoring, tele-health services, academic counseling, etc.—to 2.1 million learners and created nonprofit pricing to support outreach with colleges. Through the California Connects program, learners at community colleges can receive a mobile hotspot without throttling, suspension, or overage charges for $19.99 per month—empowering subscribers with the ability to connect to learning and essential information anytime, anywhere.

Because learners need access to both the internet and a device, the Foundation created systems for colleges to make technology tools for learning available for their students through private sector partnerships focused on refurbished devices (which also allows them to overcome supply chain and affordability barriers). To make sure that devices were available when they were needed, the Foundation customized a bulk purchasing program dedicated specifically to ensure the availability of a large quantity of devices that are reserved for community colleges’ needs throughout the year. To limit resource constraints on the community colleges in the interest of institutional efficiency and effectiveness, the Foundation focused on methods to send resources directly to learners’ doors and mailboxes.