Revamp California’s unsustainable college system

Lauren Williams's picture

California needs a higher education system that can produce graduates without draining public coffers and private pockets. Legislators should enact higher education reforms that would improve efficiency, boost accountability, cut costs and turn out more graduates. And the state’s higher education systems should cooperate in making such changes.

The state’s watchdog Little Hoover Commission last week released a report calling for the state to rethink its approach to higher education. California’s higher education master plan, adopted in 1960, is focused on delineating the separate roles of community colleges, California State University and the University of California. But the commission says that model no longer works, and California needs to find an approach better suited to modern realities. Gov. Jerry Brown agrees, calling the state’s current higher education model “unsustainable.”

Higher education is clearly vital to the state’s future. The report says that by 2025, California jobs will require as many as 2.3 million more college graduates than the 3.2 million the state is projected to produce over the next decade or so. The need is particularly acute in the Inland region, where less than 20 percent of residents have college degrees.

Yet the state’s higher education enrollment capacity has not kept pace with population growth, and the average cost of attending a public college in California has more than doubled since 2003. Neither taxpayers nor students can afford a higher education system that becomes steadily more expensive as personnel and administrative costs expand unchecked.

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