California’s Master Plan for Higher Education established a precedent that every high school graduate in the state would be guaranteed a spot in its higher education system. In the decades since that plan was sanctioned, volatile economic changes, cost increases, and burgeoning student enrollment have stretched California’s postsecondary institutions beyond capacity. As a result, degree completion rates have suffered, and students face stark inequities by race and region along the education-to-employment pipeline.
A harsh irony has emerged in California: opportunities for social mobility are shrinking while job creation quickly outpaces the number of qualified workers residing in our state. The impact of this disparity on the state’s economy is profound, and California faces a future where there are not enough skilled workers to fill every job. Stronger coordination will empower California to change course and build a truly student-centered postsecondary system with clearly defined goals that articulate the state’s values and provide waypoints to measure progress.