Miguel Torres works on a thesis during an accelerated English course at Skyline College in San Bruno, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. This English 105 course allows students who otherwise might be placed in remedial English to earn transferable college credits. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)
California is doing a poor job of enrolling residents in college and making sure they earn a degree.
According to a new report card from the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity, the state earns an F grade on both those measures. On affordability, California gets a C. And on preparation, which weighs how prepared high school graduates are for college classes, the state receives a B-.
Tally that all up and you get an alarmingly low 1.17 GPA.
The group wants the state to adopt a goal of having 60 percent statewide college attainment by 2025. Right now, about 48 percent of adults in California have a degree. According to the group, the state needs to produce an additional 1.7 million degrees over the next decade to meet workforce demand, yet only about half of the state’s young people enroll in college and fewer than half of high school students complete the classes they need to be ready for college.
“Nobody in the state is measuring California’s progress against any sort of goal,” said Audrey Dow, the group’s senior vice president. “I think what’s been missing is that overall strategy for meeting our workforce needs.”
A big part of that strategy, Dow said, should be helping the state’s students of color succeed. Latinos outnumber whites in California, but they are less likely to attend a good high school or to earn a degree, and more likely to struggle to pay for higher education. “They want to go to college but they haven’t necessarily been prepared to succeed,” she said.
The timing of the report’s release isn’t random. The organization hopes it will prompt gubernatorial candidates to consider the issue, and that appears to be happening. Antonio Villaraigosa, former Los Angeles mayor and a candidate for governor, said in a statement, “As a living example of the power of higher education to create limitless opportunity, I am a strong believer in prioritizing the planning and investment in California’s colleges and universities to ensure the doors of higher education remain open for all Californians.”
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and California State Treasurer John Chiang, both candidates for governor, also released statements in response to the report. Should California adopt such a goal, it would not be alone. According to the Campaign for College Opportunity, around 30 other states have statewide goals for getting more people through college. “California has to get serious,” Dow said.