Santa Monica College receives $1-million gift for online programs

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Santa Monica College has received a $1-million gift to expand the number of courses available online, officials announced Monday.

The donation is the largest the college has ever been given to boost technology at the Westside campus, which has a reputation for innovative programs, including online education.


The $1.025-million donation comes from Santa Monica residents Conrad Lee Klein and Joan Dempsey Klein and will be used to create the Conrad Lee Klein Fund for Online Education. The $1 million will be used to support online programs and $25,000 will be used for other college priorities.

“Online education provides an increasingly vital alternative to the traditional college classroom setting,” Santa Monica President Chui L. Tsang said in a statement. “Working people, parents, individuals with disabilities, people who live outside the Santa Monica area and many others who cannot regularly attend classes on campus will benefit immensely from this extremely generous gift.”

Currently, about 20% of Santa Monica students take some or all of their classes online each semester, said Donald Girard, senior director of government relations. In the 2011-12 academic year, the college offered about 725 online courses. The Klein gift will be used to boost the number and also improve online instruction.

The gift comes as California colleges and universities are being urged by Gov. Jerry Brown to expand online programs in order to serve greater numbers of students and increase efficiency.

Conrad Klein is the trustee of the Mark Hughes Family Trust and president of the Mark Hughes Charity Foundation. He previously was outside legal counsel to Hughes, the late founder and president of Herbalife. Joan Klein is the presiding justice of the California Court of Appeal, second appellate district and a co-founder of the National Assn. of Women Judges.

Conrad Klein will become a member of Santa Monica College’s Advisory Committee for the Academy on Entertainment and Technology.

“Joan and I both understand the problems of poverty,” said Klein, who spent time in an orphanage and foster homes as a child. “We were fortunate enough to overcome them. We want to try to help others so they too can find their way up the ladder to success. We believe that through technology, you can reach students of all economic levels.”


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