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

On June 20th Assembly Member Das Williams welcomed the Campaign and our listening tour participants to the Santa Barbara region (see the Central Coast profile to learn more about how the region is performing in key college measures). Twenty-nine leaders joined us for a discussion on possible higher education reforms in 4 major areas—access, completion, accountability, and affordability. Participants primarily represented the education sector with 2 college presidents, 8 trustees and other internal stakeholders.

The following is a summary of the discussion and an overview of the voting outcomes.

ACCESS

  •  Expand eligibility through A-G completion. All groups agreed that expanding eligibility through college preparedness and early support is key to students’ success in higher education.
  •  Expand capacity. Participants agreed that increasing capacity for students is critical however, emphasized that it cannot be done without ensuring structures to increase student success are also put in place. There was a lot of discussion around expanding capacity in regards to baccalaureate degrees with one group suggesting that community colleges be allowed to offer some baccalaureate degrees.
  •  Leverage technology. While one group had a generally positive view of the possible role technology could play in higher education, the other two groups were skeptical of its successful use.

COMPLETION

  •  Focus on equity. There was little discussion around this reform yet participants did note the importance of collaboration between K-12 and higher education especially when discussing underrepresented students.
  •  Accelerate college readiness. This reform was highly contested with one group agreeing that a statewide metric system was necessary while another group felt local campuses should decide how best to improve completion for the students they serve.

ACCOUNTABILITY

  •  Create a higher education coordinating body or office. All groups agreed that a singular coordinating body is necessary and emphasized that the entity be goal-oriented and work with the K-12 system as well.
  •  Empower regions. This reform was seen as unnecessary however, participants did feel that establishing regional goals would be a critical task for a higher education coordinating body.

AFFORDABILITY

  •  Improve financial aid access. Most groups agreed that increasing financial aid literacy and streamlining the financial aid application would help support students throughout their college education. One group brought up the importance of specifically having support services for community college students who often have difficulty staying on track because of financial obligations.

Participants expressed frustration over the state’s prioritization of funding and implications of budget cuts over the past few years. Conversations of the day were thus critical of how reforms would be carried out. Nonetheless, expanding eligibility and accelerating college readiness stood out as the top reforms of the day.

We’d like to extend our most gracious appreciation to Assembly Member Das Williams and his staff for helping us make this stop possible and to all participants for joining us. Next stop: Fresno!