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Higher Education in California: Addressing California’s Skills Gap


A skilled workforce is key to a thriving California economy. Unfortunately, California’s higher education system is not keeping up with the economy’s changing needs. If current trends continue, California will face a large skills gap by 2030—it will be 1.1 million workers with bachelor’s degrees short of economic demand.

Failing to keep up with the demand for skilled workers could curtail economic growth, limit economic mobility, and increase inequality. It could result in a less productive economy, lower incomes and tax revenue, and greater dependence on the social safety net. Over time, if California’s workforce does not have the skills and training that employers need, firms may close, relocate, or operate at lower levels of productivity.

Closing the gap will require increases in the number of degrees awarded by every higher education sector in the state, including private nonprofit and public universities. New investments will be needed to meet those goals. Measuring progress and identifying programs and policies that improve student success, especially among underrepresented groups, should be key components of those investments. The good news is that changes made today can put California on a better trajectory. But educational progress takes time, so it is important to act now.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing higher education challenges in seven key areas:



We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Sutton Family Fund.

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