Today California Competes released a report, Mind the Gap: Delivering on California’s Promise for Higher Education, that updates California’s projected degree gap in 2025 and pays special attention to trends within majors, the educational segments, and across races.
The 2.4 million degree attainment gap presents a significant challenge to the state and becomes even more pressing when one looks at the disparities underneath the total. The report finds that Blacks and Latinos are least likely to graduate from a UC and that many more Latino students (and fewer Asians) receive sub-baccalaureate credentials in comparison to bachelor’s degrees. Blacks are most likely to receive a credential at a private institution, including for-profits, where tuition costs are higher than in the public segments. The engineering major, which typically leads to higher paying jobs after graduation, is ranked fifth and eighth amongst Asians and Whites, respectively, yet eleventh and fifteenth for Latinos and Blacks, respectively.
“California is in trouble” said Lande Ajose, Director of California Competes. “When the master plan was enacted, the state made a promise to ‘guarantee educational access for all.’ While students may have access, that access is not translating into equitable outcomes. That has implications not only for the state’s long term economic prospects but also for creating a coherent social fabric. You can’t have strong and vibrant democracy when you have disparate higher education outcomes whose results reinforce broader social inequalities.”
The report calls on the state to increase degree attainment and improve and accelerate pathways by developing a system to reach out to adult learners, particularly those with some or most of the credit needed to graduate, and by pilot testing three-year bachelor’s degrees, which have proven a viable and equitable option on a small-scale basis.
Mind the Gap also proposes increasing long-term productivity and efficiency by creating a statewide higher education coordinating entity charged with the responsibility of projecting state needs for an educated workforce, collecting data, and coordinating with the educational segments to develop strategies that close the degree and achievement gaps. In September of this year Governor Brown vetoed SB 42, legislation sponsored by Senator Carol Liu (D; 25th) that would have created a similar entity.
Finally, the report recommends making targeted investments in higher education, particularly by using advising and financial supports and incentives to promote full-time enrollment at the community colleges and CSUs.