Courtesy: California Community Colleges
Heather Hiles

Heather Hiles resigned Monday as president of Calbright College, California’s newest online community college, after less than one year on the job.

The online community college’s board of trustees unanimously voted to accept her resignation, effective March 31. According to a statement from Board President Tom Epstein, an interim chief executive officer will be selected until a permanent replacement can be hired.

Hiles made the decision to step down, said Taylor Huckaby, the college’s communication director.

Huckaby said there is a separation agreement but said it is not public.

When she was hired last February to lead the state’s new 115th community college, she was given a four-year contract with a base salary of $385,000 plus ongoing living adjustments in years two, three and four, at the time. Her contract also included yearly performance bonuses up to $10,000 in the first year that could have increased to as much as $40,000 in the fourth year. It also included a $10,000 annual vehicle allowance.

“Our board appreciates the leadership provided by Ms. Hiles during her tenure as Calbright’s chief executive officer,” said Epstein, in a statement. “She led the launch of the start-up college that has already enrolled hundreds of students. Systems are in place to expand operations over time to meet the college’s goal of providing flexible online job-based learning opportunities to help adult workers in California obtain the skills they need to advance their careers.”

Hiles was a former deputy director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and technology entrepreneur.

A representative from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office said they would not be commenting at this time on Hiles’ resignation.

The fully online, free community college opened in October and has since enrolled more than 300 students in one of three program pathways, all of which are self-paced and designed to be completed in under one year. Former Gov. Jerry Brown envisioned the college as serving adult and underemployed populations of students who are working part-time or stuck in positions that don’t pay a living wage. The California Community College system described those potential students as “stranded workers,” between the ages of 25 and 34. Despite that focus, any student can enroll in the college, which is free to students, since it is a community college.

Calbright officials have said they will partner with employers to offer apprenticeships to students in the three programs — information technology, medical coding and cybersecurity. Those apprenticeships were expected to be announced this spring.

“We look forward to working closely with the public officials who entrusted us with oversight responsibility of Calbright to make the college a success,” Epstein said. “Calbright has the potential to be a powerful resource to help millions of low-income and disadvantaged Californias move up the economic ladder. We are determined to fulfill that goal.”

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