Displeased teacher working using laptop in the classroom

California’s Economic Crisis: too many students, not enough college

California is facing a crisis:  we have too many jobs that require higher education, and not enough education for Californians.  

A new report by the Campaign for College Opportunity makes it clear: our higher education systems aren’t keeping up with demand.  Each year tens of thousands of qualified Californians can’t find spaces in the state’s college systems. And each year thousands of California jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified applicants who need college experience.

“We need more college degrees to meet the jobs of today and tomorrow,” state assemblyman Kevin McCarty said about the issue, according to EdSource.  “We know you need more education to focus on what you need in this economy and the number of people attending high school in California is declining, but the number of people (ready for college) is through the roof.”

The problem isn’t just one cause, there are strains everywhere across the higher education system.  State investment in education dropped dramatically over the last 20 years, and there is a shortage of faculty, of staff, and of physical facilities — and the costs associated with going to college have gone up, making higher education less accessible. This is especially true, the report says, for Black and Latinx prospective students, who are not only less likely to get placed but less likely to apply at all in the face of these barriers. 

The Campaign for College Equity report contains a number of compelling suggestions for the state to reinvest in education, with the goal of ensuring that 60% of California adults earn a degree or a high value certificate. These are worthy goals. Expanding capacity at the UC and CSU systems alone, however, is only a piece of the puzzle. The higher education system needs new approaches which are more nimble, scaleable, and accessible, to help connect adult Californians to the education they need to get the jobs they want. California’s businesses need it too.

Calbright is one such approach. 

We’ve eliminated most of the barriers to access that potential students face: we’re currently free to Californians, we’re online and self-paced so that students can take classes where they are, on their schedule — whether that’s an hour during a lunch break at work or in 10 minute intervals at home. We provide laptops and wifi hotspots to students who need them, and our admissions process is streamlined and simple: every adult Californian with at least a high school diploma who applies can enroll.  

Our programs are directly tied to job openings in California. Our students aren’t studying for degrees, but for industry valued certificates that can give them access to in-demand careers like IT support and CRM platform administration. Because we’re entirely online, we don’t need physical facilities and we’re open to students across the entire state. Students don’t need to move from their homes to get a Calbright education, and we aren’t limited by the physical space a campus may, or may not, provide. 

This isn’t a replacement for an adequately funded California university system — but for the tens of thousands of adult Californians each year who are looking for a fast, flexible, and accessible education to improve their careers, this may be just the model they’re looking for.

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