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California’s Future: Higher Education

Jacob Jackson, Hans Johnson | January 2019


Higher education benefits individuals and the state: college graduates are more likely to be employed and earn higher wages than nongraduates, boosting state tax revenues and reducing pressure on the social safety net. However, California’s higher education system is not keeping up with the changing economy. Projections suggest that the state will continue to need greater numbers of highly educated workers. In 2030, if current trends persist, 38 percent of jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree. But population and education trends suggest that only 33 percent of working-age adults in California will have bachelor’s degrees by 2030—a shortfall of 1.1 million college graduates.

Governor Newsom has proposed investing more in higher education to avoid tuition increases, as well as creating an entity to help coordinate California educational institutions. Future challenges, including closing the skills gap, require setting new goals for higher education and making investments to improve educational outcomes and increase the number of college-educated workers. Improving access and completion rates for underrepresented groups, including Latinos, African Americans, and students from low-income families, will also be essential for increasing economic mobility. To ensure that its investments pay off, the state will need to measure progress toward its goals and identify programs and policies that improve student success.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing long-term policy challenges in 11 key areas:

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the PPIC Corporate Circle and the PPIC Donor Circle.

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