How can California begin to plan to meet the looming workforce shortage?

From the tip top of California down to the southern border, The Campaign spent a busy week tackling tours all over the state starting in San Jose and ending in San Diego. The Campaign team was ready to hear more about what California leaders thought would be critical to make a bold new plan for higher education in the state.

San Diego leaders showed up eager to discuss how their region is performing in college measures (see the San Diego-Imperial profile) and give their input for reforms that could help improve their performance. The following are some of the key priorities and concerns for the region.

ACCESS

  • Expand Eligibility. Participants agreed that all students should have the opportunity to be eligible for a 4 year college. However, not all of them agreed that making the A-G curriculum the default would guarantee access because of the variation in quality of these courses from school to school.
  • Leverage Technology. Participants felt that technology should be leveraged strategically to get the most educational return for the investment. Still, attendees agreed that if properly used, with rigor and interaction built in to courses, technology had the potential to make huge strides in increasing access.

COMPLETION

  • Focus on equity and accelerating college readiness. Accelerating college readiness was also a top priority for attendees in San Diego. Participants believed that the acceleration of basic skills was necessary for completion rates to go up. Attendees felt that equity gaps and college readiness could be improved simultaneously because improving college readiness would by default close equity gaps.  More so, attendees agreed that the state needs to make a commitment to closing equity gaps by race, but that it should start much earlier than college.

ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Participants were split in their support for a new funding model based on rewarding colleges for both access and completion. Although the concept of rewarding colleges for both was generally accepted as a good idea, some participants felt that incentivizing students for completion might be more effective.
  • Create a higher education coordinating body/office or empower regions. Participants agreed that a governing board with K-16 system involvement was necessary for accountability. However there was no consensus on whether this governing board should be statewide or regional. Attendees saw value in addressing local issues by region, but also felt that alignment throughout the state was necessary for students to gain easier accessibility to all CSU’s and UC’s.

AFFORDABILITY

  • Improve Financial Aid Access was voted the top reform of the day. Participants thought that current efforts to advertise the availability of financial aid are mediocre and have not kept pace with technological advances. Innovative methods of information sharing such as the use of social media and mobile applications should be used to strengthen outreach efforts given the number of millennials using these technologies.
  • Setting a consistent fee policy was voted the third priority overall. Tuition costs have heavily burdened student planning with their unpredictability. In recognition of this issue, participants agreed that policy for a fund which incorporated a formula balancing and supporting changes in the economy would increase affordability. Still, many expressed concern over the legislature’s ability to refrain from using the “rainy day fund” portion of this plan. 

While affordability was the top concern for the San Diego region, participants continued to revisit the importance of technology in facilitating a majority of the proposed reforms.

As usual the Campaign also invited participants to share reforms not captured in the above topics that could help move the needle in higher education reform. Two reforms were suggested by participants – restructuring degrees to include only the necessary courses for a major and the creation of a simpler FAFSA process.

A special thank you to Sharp Healthcare for partnering with us on our stop! The Campaign wrapped up a very eventful week with many new insights. Next stops: Orange County, Redding and Santa Barbara.