Opportunity is unevenly distributed. Some people have a much harder time than others because of a lack of opportunity.

There’s Opportunity In California, But It’s Not Evenly Distributed

If you look at all of California together, our education system looks good:  83.9% of our high school students graduate, and 64.4% of them go to college. That’s a strong track record.

But the picture changes if you focus on the individual pieces:  a new report by California Competes shows just how much opportunity in California “differs dramatically” based on where someone lives and their race, ethnicity, gender, and more.

What a Difference a Place Makes

In the Central Sierra region of California, high school graduation and college attendance are roughly 20-40 percent lower than the statewide average. 

In the San Joaquin region, high school graduation rates match the state’s average — but fewer students get into college, in part because “more students in the region meet eligibility requirements than the campus can admit.” It’s even worse for adults:  46.2% intend to enroll in college programs, but only 6% are actually enrolled.  

In the Upper Sacramento Valley, the rates of high school graduation and college enrollment both fall below the state average, and bachelors degree attainment is 37% below the state average.

California is full of opportunity, but it’s unevenly distributed:  many people across much of the state simply don’t have the same level of access to education.

Who And Where You Are

Opportunity also differs significantly by race and ethnicity (among other factors). 

  • Statewide, while 95 percent of Asians graduate from high school, only 85% of Black students do, and 65% of Native American and Alaska Native students do;
  • Only 15% of Latinx Californians have a bachelor’s degree

Clearly there are significant differences in the way people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds are able to access the education system.  

These factors also compound: people from under-supported backgrounds who live in under-supported regions of the state are far more likely to be left behind in the search for education and opportunity.

This is a challenge not just for the individuals involved, but for California as a whole. We are one of the most diverse states in America, and the state of our economy will depend on how much opportunity we can offer traditionally disenfranchised groups.  

What We Can Do

Calbright is California’s first statewide, online, community college district — which means that we can offer college level career training to every adult Californian with a high school diploma or equivalent. We’re also currently free, and can accept all qualified applicants. That is a significant expansion of college access. 

But reports like those from California Competes also highlight areas that we can focus on to expand access where it’s most needed. Calbright can work directly with companies that are struggling to hire qualified candidates for good jobs in areas with few college graduates, and develop certificate programs specifically to meet the needs of those sectors. We can then work with local organizations like workforce development boards to give easy access to those programs to the people who need them most. Calbright can provide a fast, flexible, response to education and accessibility gaps across California.  

That’s only part of the solution, but it’s already underway: Calbright’s CRM Platform Administration program was developed using just that model. We analyzed the workforce needs of areas with fewer college graduates, worked with local industry to see what kinds of high quality jobs they were struggling to fill, and then created a program that can be completed in six months that qualifies someone to succeed in those jobs. We worked with workforce development boards to find students, and successfully launched the program.  

Together we’re demonstrating that all of California can be prosperous by extending opportunity to every Californian.

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