Soapbox

What’s California’s next governor’s plan for higher ed?

Students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus in April.
Students walk past Sather Gate on the University of California, Berkeley campus in April. AP file

In a little more than a year, Californians will elect the 40th governor of the state. As candidates gear up, voters deserve clear answers to some pressing questions:

What will he or she do to keep the dream of college a reality for all students? And how will they make sure that our system of public colleges and universities advances our state?

 
Opinion

It is essential for candidates to lay out a clear vision because California’s system of higher education remains one of our greatest assets. It produces the workforce that fuels our economy and keeps the spirit of innovation and opportunity alive.

There is cause for concern. The Campaign for College Opportunity recently released its first California Report Card on Higher Education, which revealed that the state has not kept pace with the changing needs of our workforce. Fewer than half of adults have a college degree or credential, but we need 60 percent of adults to have one by 2025. Across critical measures – college preparation, access, affordability and graduation – we are failing.

Without swift and strategic action, California will face a shortage of college-educated workers and jeopardize our status as the sixth-largest economy in the world.

The next governor’s vision should be rooted in reaching that 60 percent goal at a minimum, and that starts with the state budget. Higher education must be prioritized by creating a secretary of education and by establishing a new coordinating group that ensures the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges act as one seamless system.

For example, outdated admissions caps for the UC and CSU systems have put California dead last in the nation for the percentage of high school students that go directly to four-year universities. Since only 4 percent of community college students transfer annually, there should be one clear path into both the CSU and UC with guaranteed admission and junior standing.

As the campaign season heats up, we will be watching closely to see what each candidate unveils on higher education because that’s the type of visionary leadership we need.

Michele Siqueiros is president of the Campaign for College Opportunity. She can be contacted at michele@collegecampaign.org.

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