New Report Explores Challenges and Opportunities for Millions of Potential College Graduates

As more Californians lose jobs to COVID-19 cutbacks, higher education has a unique opportunity to serve those sidelined workers who don’t have a college degree. California Competes’s new report, Untapped Opportunity: Understanding and Advancing Prospects for Californians without a College Degree, takes a closer look at Californians ages 25–54 who graduated from high school but not college. More vulnerable to unemployment and a lifetime of lower wages, this population would greatly benefit from streamlined pathways to college degrees.

California colleges and universities must expand their focus beyond recent high school graduates to include adults who are years beyond high school—especially given their critical role in meeting employers’ growing demands for skilled workers with specific credentials. To do so, postsecondary institutions must better understand the characteristics of this population. Today’s potential college students are often older, with more family responsibilities and less of a safety net.

California has everything to gain by reimagining higher education to meet the needs of today’s students and attract those Californians who have yet to fulfill their potential in the job market.

Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez

This research explores where Californians without a college degree live and work, whether they receive public assistance, and other important details our postsecondary institutions must consider in designing programs and policies that work for more Californians. Further, this publication makes key policy recommendations aimed at transforming the state’s existing higher education structure to better support potential graduates on the path to degree completion.

“Now more than ever, our higher education institutions must embrace their role in reasserting California’s economic strength by supporting those most vulnerable to job loss and underemployment,” said California Competes Executive Director Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez. “California has everything to gain by reimagining higher education to meet the needs of today’s students and attract those Californians who have yet to fulfill their potential in the job market.”

Read the report.

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