Looking Ahead to 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Nearly one decade ago, California Competes was established as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit project to address a lack of leadership and goals in California higher education policy. The state economy was still reeling from the Great Recession. Governor Schwarzenegger’s 2010-11 budget proposal identified a $19 billion shortfall. The S&P lowered California’s bond rating. Amidst this dire fiscal state, California Competes recommended policies that could help our postsecondary system operate more efficiently and effectively—at the same or even lower costs.

Fast forward to today. California’s economy has returned to its ranking as fifth-largest in the world—larger than the United Kingdom, India, and France. The LAO estimates California’s General Fund will have a $7 billion surplus in 2020-21. Still, the likelihood of a recession looms, and while California tops the list of states with the most billionaires, it’s grappling with a growing homelessness crisis and vast wealth inequality.

Now is the time to face head-on the growing divide between California’s haves and have nots. An antidote to economic stratification is a postsecondary education system responsive to workforce needs. Together with our Leadership Council and staff, and through extensive consultation with analysts, institutions, government agencies, policymakers, philanthropies, and peer organizations, California Competes will prioritize policy research on workforce development in 2020. As part of this effort, we will engage business groups as well as workforce experts to examine the role employers and economic development leaders could play in viable policy solutions.

The transition from high school to college has received much attention from policymakers in the last decade, and rightfully so. In today’s economy, a high school diploma alone will not lead Californians on a path to prosperity. To ensure a college credential truly is a vehicle for economic mobility, our 21st-century system of higher education needs to evolve and adapt. We must pay more attention to what’s happening after college and whether our students’ dreams and our state’s economic needs are being fulfilled.

As California Competes finalizes our 2020 Policy Platform in the new year, we will release a number of publications exploring the changes needed to better support adult students, most of whom are already in the workforce. It’s sure to be a busy year ahead as we launch research around meeting California's workforce needs and continue to advance our existing priorities around the statewide data system, adult students, and stronger coordination in higher education. I’m proud to say we’re approaching the new year with a fully-staffed team. Dr. Valerie Lundy-Wagner leads our policy research. Gail Yen oversees our legislative affairs and policy analysis. Ilaf Esuf supports all aspects of our research, policy, and communications initiatives. Joanna Rosenthal manages communications. The team has just welcomed Kim Bernet, who serves as our senior operations manager.

As we close the book on a remarkably successful year and an impressive first decade as an organization, I want to thank you for your continued interest in California Competes and wish you a wonderful holiday and year ahead.


Su Jin Gatlin Jez, PhD
Executive Director
California Competes

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