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Higher Education in California: Increasing Equity and Diversity


A solid majority of California’s future college-age population will come from groups that have been historically under-represented in higher education—including Latinos and African Americans, and those who are low income or the first in their families to go to college. PPIC research has shown that this demographic shift could be a major contributor to the state’s future workforce skills gap. To avoid or at least minimize this gap, California needs to increase the number of underrepresented students who graduate from college.

It has been well documented that expanding access to college can promote upward social and economic mobility. Many Californians are aware of this: a December 2016 PPIC Statewide Survey found that most Latino, African American, and lower-income adults believe that a college education is necessary for success, compared to fewer than half of Asian, white, and higher-income adults. In recent years, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to underrepresented students has been increasing, but it remains relatively low—and these students continue to have lower odds of obtaining college degrees than their wealthier, well-represented peers. Policymakers and higher education institutions should work to increase these odds by creating meaningful opportunities for college access and success.

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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