New Research: Millions of Adults Slip Through the Cracks of California's Higher Education System

New Research Released Today Highlights Millions of Adults Slipping Through the Cracks of California's Higher Education System

Four million Californians aged 25 to 64, a number nearly as large as the population of the City of Los Angeles, leave college without finishing their degree.

Too many students stop out before completing college in California, and as a result, face limited earning potential and a host of other social and economic challenges. Millions of Californians could benefit from going back to college to complete their degree but face many personal hurdles and systemic barriers if they choose to return.

California Competes’ new report, Back to College: California’s Imperative to Re-Engage Adults, explores why this population of adults represents a prime opportunity to improve equity while fueling the state’s economy. The report is the first of a series that offers a deep analysis of this population and the barriers they face.

Read the report.

Key findings include: 

  • Adults with some college but no degree face widespread and systemic barriers such as limited financing options and institutional roadblocks.
  • These roadblocks contribute to inequitable college completion rates. Only about half of Latino, Black, Native American, and Pacific Islander Californians who attend college complete their degree, compared to two-thirds of White adults who attempt their degree.
  • Income distributions for Californians with some college but no degree more closely resemble those for workers with only a high school diploma, rather than those who completed their degree.

Policymakers have a moral obligation and an overwhelming economic incentive to support this population of Californians on pathways back to college and through degree completion.

Adults with some college but no degree are struggling on the sidelines of economic stability. “They are missing out on the wealth and health benefits that come with a degree. They lack health insurance, they struggle to pay rent and are more likely to never own a home,” said California Competes Executive Director Dr. Lande Ajose.

“Policymakers have a moral obligation and an overwhelming economic incentive to support this population of Californians on pathways back to college and through degree completion.”

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