California will need to produce more college graduates if it wants to secure a competitive economic future, according to a report released last week.
By equipping more citizens with college credentials, including associate and community college degrees, the 13-page report by California Competes states California can ensure that its job market will consist of intelligent and educated minds and remain a competitive economic state.
Currently, the state has a total GDP of $1.9 trillion, representing 13 percent of the national GDP. According to the report, California will need to produce 2.3 million post-secondary degrees and certificates by 2025 in order to maintain a strong economy.
In order to get there, the California Competes Council, made up of 13 civic and business leaders, outlines a series of recommendations for the state, which focus heavily on system and financial management. By holding both local- and state-level leaders more accountable for system management, the report states that financial woes can be alleviated.
In the report, the authors clearly state that they aimed their findings at policy makers and organizations like the Public Policy Institute of California in hopes of instigating changes within the state education system.
Hans Johnson, Bren policy fellow at the institute, said the institute has been looking at this problem for quite a while, especially because California is currently not creating pathways for more educated workers.
“There is not a shortage of knowledge about how to get more students into college and through college,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t improve, but there is a shortage of goal setting and planning. The problem as a state isn’t that we don’t know what works; it is that we haven’t set goals.”
In order provide more consistent and effective higher education for California residents, California Competes outlines a series of issues and recommendations for the state including ensuring that each degree received is meaningful and that a college degree becomes more meaningful rather than just symbolic to employers.
However, due to the recent budget cuts in California, Johnson said it is becoming difficult to ensure that meaningful degrees are issued because as funding is slashed, public institutions must cut enrollment in order to ensure that degrees remain of the same caliber.
“In order to preserve quality for the remaining students, we limit the number of students that we bring in,” Johnson said. “This is antithetical to our mission but it is what we do to ensure that the degree still means something.”
The UC and CSU have been faced with the problem of choosing between qualities of degrees versus quantity of degrees, which has been put to the test throughout California’s public institutions.
“We would love to educate more students, but unfortunately we don’t have the funding to do so because of the severe cuts the state has made to UC,” said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron in an email.
Despite the challenging financial environment that the university is in, four out of five incoming UC students will graduate within six years, and four years later more than one-fourth will participate in further schooling, according to the 2011 UC Accountability Report.
While the university has been able to survive during these economic times and still produce a fair number of graduates, the CSU and California Community Colleges have been immensely challenged by budget cuts.
According to the report, much of the current problem lies with the community colleges, who currently rank 49th in terms of credential completion compared with other states.
CSU spokesperson Erik Fallis said the financial problems that the state is facing are a result of the priorities of the state, which sometimes puts higher education on the back burner. In recent years, California prisons have received additional funding where public universities could face a 37 percent budget decrease if further cuts are made this year, Fallis said.