The Need for College Graduates in California’s Future Economy

On November 1, 2017, Hans Johnson, director and senior fellow at the PPIC Higher Education Center, testified before the Assembly Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education in California. The master plan defined a strategy to meet the state’s education needs in 1960—but today, California faces new challenges. The topic of the hearing: ensuring that the master plan meets workforce needs.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our primary finding is that California faces a shortage of highly educated workers. Specifically, economic projections to 2030 show that about two in five jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, while demographic projections suggest only about one in three Californians will have at least a bachelor’s degree. This shortfall equates to 1.1 million workers. …

To close the gap, California and its higher education institutions will need to establish new policies and practices to enroll more students, especially in our four-year colleges and universities, and ensure greater success of students already in college. In previous testimony, PPIC has identified targets for each of the state’s public systems with respect to admission, transfer (from community colleges to four-year colleges), and improved graduation rates. Improving access and success among groups historically underrepresented in higher education, including low-income students, first-generation college students, Latinos, and African Americans is essential if we are to close the degree gap.

The good news is that new goals adopted by the California State University (CSU) system and the California Community College system are entirely consistent with PPIC’s identified targets. New initiatives, including remediation reform at the community colleges and at CSU, have the potential to substantially increase student success. CSU’s new graduation initiative aims to substantially increase graduation rates and eliminate gaps between groups of students. Strong increases in college preparation among the state’s high school graduates are also a positive sign, with the share of students completing the college preparatory requirements of UC and CSU reaching an all-time high.

Finding ways to accommodate all these students remains a central challenge, but one we must meet in order to ensure a better future for all Californians.

Read his prepared remarks on the PPIC website.