College Access and Success for Adults

Reimagining higher education to serve the student of today and tomorrow.

California’s economic health depends on closing its college credential gap. This shortfall of credentials or degrees cannot be addressed by focusing only on recent high school graduates. The state must shift systems and institutions to better serve the needs of today’s students, a growing share who are adult learners often balancing work, family, and other life obligations. California Competes seeks to make college a reality for more adults by driving reforms that create clear pathways to and through higher education.


Adult Learners

college access for adults

Californians are faced with a job market that increasingly favors candidates with a college degree.

If we reorient higher education practices and policies to help even a fraction of these individuals earn their degrees or credential, we forge stronger pathways to educational and career success–and, ultimately, a stronger economy and thriving communities.

Some College, No Credential

competency based education

In light of declining enrollment and persistence rates across college campuses in a job market that increasingly requires postsecondary training, it becomes increasingly critical to reengage students who began on campuses but left without a degree.

These Californians are just steps away from reaching their education and career goals. Addressing the structural barriers that hinder their college return and completion will pave the way towards closing California’s credential gap.

Student Parents

To reach attainment goals, California postsecondary institutions must recognize the unique needs of student parents and tailor supports to address them.

Carving a pathway to and through higher education for this student population not only cements the state’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity but also creates ripple effects on education attainment and the economy. To that end, California Competes and EdTrust-West launched The California Alliance for Student Parent Success to advance solutions for the postsecondary success and well-being of student parents and their families.

Justice-Impacted Students

credit for prior learning

Student success means inclusive structures that ensure all students regardless of background can earn their degree or credential. Advancing college opportunities for justice-impacted students lowers the rate of recidivism and increases social and economic mobility for all.

Justice-impacted students who participate in education programs are

Estimates show that for every $1 spent on correctional education, $5 is saved on incarceration costs. Given both the equity imperative and the economic payoff, California Competes increases public focus on dismantling the systemic barriers that prevent college and career opportunities for this student population.

College Affordability

college access for adults college affordability
Cost of attending a California public 4-year college
almost doubled

College affordability remains one of the biggest barriers to higher education access. California Competes strives to advance solutions that increase access to financial aid options and allow all students to be able to manage the costs of attending college, including nontuition and basic needs expenses, and continue on their education and career trajectory.

Credit for Prior Learning

credit for prior learning

Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is an educational tool to close equity gaps and expand economic stability. It acknowledges college-level learning happens outside of a college classroom, awarding credit towards a degree or credential regardless of where the learning happens. California Competes seeks to encourage widespread adoption of CPL across the state’s institutions so students can avoid spending extra time and money on experience and expertise they’ve already gained and apply that towards a postsecondary credential.

Students who are awarded CPL are

more likely
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Decreasing time to degree increases college affordability, accessibility, and completion across the board.

Competency-Based Education

competency based education

Competency-based education offers a flexible, student-centric pathway to postsecondary completion for the many Californians juggling multiple obligations outside of school. This educational model grants credit based on a student’s proficiency in competency areas versus time in the classroom. California Competes is committed to supporting CBE implementation across the state to ensure higher education offers programs that are responsive to student and workforce needs, boost degree attainment, and address equity gaps.

Reimagining higher education to serve all Californians
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