California has been facing a shortage of educated workers. Some recent economic forecasts from now to 2030 suggest that 2 in 5 jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree; however, the demographic predictions suggest that only about 1 in 3 Californians will achieve this high level of education. In an effort to close this gap, all higher education systems must contribute to increasing access, transfer, and completion of education, and one of the most essential ways to reduce this skills gap is by making sure that higher education is accessible to low-income students, first-generation college students, and minority students.
As important as the access to the higher education is, one important aspect that can pave the way to a decreased workforce skills gap is transferring. Only about 40% of recent high school graduates who go on to attend a community college will actually end up transferring to a four-year institution. In an effort to improve student outcomes the community colleges have established new goals for transfer that align with the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) target goals. One of their goals includes a 35% increase in the number of transfer students at UC and CSU, increasing from about 72,000 combined in 2015 to almost 100,000 by 2020.
Two years into PPIC’s projections, it seems that both UC and CSU have met some of the goals for closing the gap. However, there is still much improvement that needs to be done, so here are three recommendations from the PPIC to continue moving forward:
- The state should work with the UC and CSU systems to ensure that students who are eligible to transfer can effectively make the transition. Many times students that apply for a transfer are not admitted due to the insufficient resources at UC and CSU.
- The path from community college to UC or CSU needs to become systematically and comprehensively streamlined. Those who earn an Associate Degree for transfer (ADT) are guaranteed admission to CSU in a major associated to their course of study. However, many students run into the complications of not being able to find their degree of study at a CSU. Some majors have no ADT at all, and to make things even harder, UC does not formally participate in the ADT guarantee, and the transfer admission requirements vary by campus and the majors within the different campuses.
- The state and the higher education institutions need to plan for increases in the number of community college students prepared to transfer. Since most community colleges hold the promise of persistence and completion of the degree, it provides students with the support to want to achieve further education. However, because most of the transfers enroll in CSU or UC, capacity issues at these institutions must also be considered.
Overall, through thoughtful planning and additional funding closing the workforce skills gap can be achieved. Because community colleges represent California’s economic and demographic diversity, being able to improve transfer pathways helps ensure that more low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students have access to a four-year degree that can later benefit them in closing the gap and attaining jobs.