For California’s Next Governor: A Roadmap to Improve Higher Education

As the gubernatorial race narrows, the top candidates’ approach to higher education should be an important factor for voters preparing to choose California’s next governor. Higher education has unmatched power to advance equity, individual prosperity, and economic growth. While California is home to a world-class higher education system, policy actions are necessary to improve the system and ensure it closes California’s workforce degree gap.

California Competes’ research and analysis over the years have shaped a plan for change that serves as a roadmap to improve higher education. California Competes’ policy platform, consistent with the principles upheld by a broad swath of higher education policy organizations, lays out specific strategies to reform the system. Specifically, California needs:

  • A statewide coordinating entity across higher education institutions to smooth student pathways and support degree completion. California is one of only two states without such coordination.
  • To develop reentry points for the millions of adults who have attended some college but have not completed their degree. Innovative practices can align college programs with workforce demands to connect students with training and hands-on experience for high-paying jobs.
  • A statewide education data system that will provide transparency for sound policymaking. To serve them effectively, we must know how our students move through all of California’s education systems and where they land in the workforce. It’s time for California to apply tools of the digital age to make higher education responsive and meaningful.

Change is overdue: California’s leaders must advance higher education policy.

This is a big year of change, and access to the opportunities afforded by higher education is a top priority for Californians. Our state’s current and next leaders must vigorously pursue a public agenda for higher education that addresses access and equity, affordability, accountability, and workforce preparedness.

For California to remain competitive as the fifth largest economy in the world and for the state’s higher education system to serve as a beacon of opportunity and prosperity for all communities, changes to our higher education system are a must for employers and all those who want our regional economies to thrive.

Members of the California Competes Leadership Council agree:  

Addressing inequities in our education-to-employment pipeline will help make the ideal of the California dream accessible to all. If you care about California’s economy, you must care about the people who fuel our economy. Higher education is the key to moving our society toward a future where anything is possible.“ –Ashley Swearengin, Member, California Competes Leadership Council and CEO of Central Valley Community Foundation
Our economy depends on higher education opportunity. When qualified students are deterred by cost, housing, and transportation barriers, and lost in the labyrinth of an uncoordinated higher education system, our state loses its greatest economic resource–the talent of our young people.“ –Libby Schaaf, Member, California Competes Leadership Council and Mayor of Oakland
A comprehensive data system is critical to achieving transparency in California’s education system. We must understand our students’ journeys from high school through college or career training and into the workforce. By doing so, California’s economy would benefit from more graduates in less time, with more completed degrees and certificates.“ –Elizabeth Hill, Chair, California Competes Leadership Council and Former Legislative Analyst for the State of California
California leaders have failed to adequately fund and redesign our public higher education system to meet the needs of our state’s economy. Unfortunately, this has meant that many promising students have not been served. They’ve been denied the social mobility they deserve, which, if given, could lift up entire communities.” –Jack Scott, Member, California Competes Leadership Council and Former Chancellor of California Community Colleges

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