In San Joaquin County, which we call home, only about 12.5 percent of residents over the age of 25 have bachelor’s degrees. Since studies show that by 2030 almost 40 percent of jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, this should be a wake-up call for our region and our state leaders.
The time is long overdue to build a new public university – and it should be in Stockton.
Over the past 30 years, the state has built more than 20 prisons, but only four university campuses. We must change our priorities, which is why community leaders are joining our campaign to build a new California State University campus in Stockton – perhaps even a new polytechnic state university, given our economy is dominated by agriculture and our close proximity to Silicon Valley.
A recent study ranked 150 metro areas in the U.S. by educational attainment. The bottom 20 included several inland areas in California, including Lodi-Stockton. This education gap isn’t just a regional issue; it’s holding back the entire state. As the Public Policy Institute of California recently reported, to keep up with the demand for college-educated workers the state needs another 1.1 million people with bachelor’s degrees by 2030. We are well behind the pace to meet that demand from within.
Almost hidden in the PPIC report are observations familiar to anyone in the Central Valley. First, that the San Joaquin Valley has comparatively few public colleges, and second, that proximity to a campus often determines whether an otherwise qualified high school graduate can attend college. Considering that Stockton is nearly three times farther from a CSU or UC campus than any other large city in California, it is no wonder we have a higher education gap.
While PPIC recommends several options, one that is neglected is building a new CSU campus. As a recent study highlighted, a CSU Stockton campus, in addition to giving local students a path to higher education, would create more than 2,000 local jobs and generate more than $250 million to our local economy – a massive boost to an area that is just starting to rebound from the recession.
Unfortunately, there is no long-range planning being done to push for a future campus in Stockton, or anywhere in California for that matter. The state’s original master plan for higher education acknowledged the importance of such planning and built a system of public colleges and universities that is the envy of the world.
We agree California needs a truly independent, representative body to plan for the state’s long-term needs and make sound decisions about where and how to build new campuses. But we will continue to fight for our community to ensure that we are not forgotten in the debate.
Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Stockton Democrat, represents the 13th Assembly District and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael D. Tubbs is mayor of Stockton and can be contacted at Mayor@stocktonca.gov.