Capitol Alert

AM Alert: California higher education looks to tomorrow’s economy

From left to right, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, and University of California President Janet Napolitano listen to students speak during the public comments portion of the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014.
From left to right, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, and University of California President Janet Napolitano listen to students speak during the public comments portion of the UC Regents meeting in San Francisco, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. AP

If California’s higher education system is struggling to provide an affordable, quality education for the current generation of students, as the political consensus holds to be the case, then what does the future hold?

In coming years the state’s economy will demand many more grads than the system can currently yield – estimates range from a shortfall of 1.1 million to a 2.3 million person shortage – which gives extra resonance to fights over the role of out-of-state students, how much autonomy the University of California should enjoy and whether a substantial share of coursework can happen online. Those debates point to long-term structural issues that endure through the annual fights over how much money the state should allocate.

Today a Public Policy Institute of California event at Sacramento’s Sheraton Grand will debate how to train California’s incoming workforce. Institute head Mark Baldassare will talk with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose embrace of tech has included advocating for more online education and who would appoint regents while getting the final say on budget decisions should his gubernatorial ambition bear fruit.

A subsequent panel will feature Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and Long Beach Community College District superintendent-president Eloy Ortiz Oakley.

COLLEGE ACCESS: Speaking of higher education, members of the nine-person Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus will be talking today about Asian-American access to college. You may recall an ugly racially-inflected brawl over affirmative action last year, which saw caucus members hearing from some Asian-American constituents worried that race-conscious admissions policies would hurt their chances. But California’s huge Asian-American population is far from monolithic, and today’s event at the San Francisco office of Chinese for Affirmative Action will touch on the wide variance across different subgroups.

CHEMTRAILS: A sign that we are truly in the legislative off-season: the two planned screenings of “Why in the World are They Spraying?” – a documentary that promises to reveal the “chemtrail-geoengineering coverup” – in room 447 today.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga, who turns 63 today.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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