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

On June 9th, more than 20 Silicon Valley leaders engaged in a robust conversation about what could be done to keep the promise of higher education that Californians have come to deeply value. Hosted by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, those in attendance represented a broad cross section of stakeholders, including business, technology, philanthropy, local community organizations, K-12 education, and higher education.

The conversation began by reviewing the region’s performance in six key college measures (see the San Francisco Bay Area profile) then moved to the overarching themes of access, completion, accountability, and affordability. In breakout group discussions, participants were asked to rank the bold reforms presented in each category, and then to vote for their top four reforms overall so that The Campaign could get a sense of the priorities outlined by community leaders in the Silicon Valley.

Below are some of the top level priorities that rose to the surface based upon group voting.

ACCESS

A consistent theme in the discussion, irrespective of which reform was being discussed, was the idea that none of the proposals could be successful without robust student supports. Recognizing that the student population served in 1960 when the Master Plan for Higher Education was created is vastly different from the student population now, California needs to ensure that students know that college is an option for them and they will be supported as they enter and throughout their time in college.

  • Expand eligibility through A-G completion. By far, this reform was considered to be the most crucial way to improve access to higher education, and was voted as the top reform among all those discussed in any category.
  • Leverage technology. While this reform did not rank high under the category of access, it was voted as the fourth most significant reform discussed that day.

COMPLETION

  • Accelerate college readiness. Voted the second-highest priority reform of the day, and the highest-priority reform under completion, college readiness was seen as a concern by the group. Discussions of the pipeline from K-12 to higher education abounded, but there was also a strong sense that, once students were in college, more needed to be done than saying that K-12 had not properly prepared students to succeed.

ACCOUNTABILITY

  • Fund colleges for enrollment and completion. The reforms discussed under accountability were not generally top priorities but, when ranked in order of preference, funding colleges for both enrollment and completion ranked at the top. One of the breakout groups also thought that this reform paired well with addressing remediation concerns through acceleration.
  • P-16 Pipeline. Another group also discussed the option of developing some sort of accountability mechanism that was broader in scope, addressing the pipeline starting in preschool and moving through higher education.

AFFORDABILITY

  • Improve financial aid access. Voted as a top priority under affordability, and among the top four reforms discussed that day, participants recognized the struggles that students face in paying for college. While FAFSA completion is a way to improve access to financial aid, there was also discussion that middle-income students still have a difficult time paying for college because they are ineligible for some of the aid available.

Thank you to the Silicon Valley Education Foundation for their partnership in this listening tour stop and to all of our enthusiastic participants that day! Next stop: Fresno!