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California’s Biggest Return on Investment

The most significant investment California made in the 1960s was the creation of, arguably, the best public higher education system in the world. The 1965 Master Plan for Higher Education created a three-tiered system of higher education that provided a place in college for any Californian seeking the opportunity. From research universities to accessible four-year public state universities and community colleges, the Master Plan for Higher Education catapulted California into world leadership in gross domestic product such that today, the state is the 5th largest economy in the world.

While revolutionary for its time, the design of the Master Plan no longer reflects the economic and workforce demands of the state and has led to uneven degree attainment and income inequality across the state. Today, California needs additional college graduates and a more ambitious Master Plan to help us meet the economic imperatives of the next decade. If California is to remain competitive, maintain an economic standing as the fifth largest economy in the world, and meet workforce demand, the state must ensure that college preparation and opportunity are provided in a more equitable way, and we must close racial/ethnic gaps in college attainment while ensuring that 60 percent of residents in every racial/ethnic group hold a college credential by 2030. If we do not take action, by 2030, we estimate only 32.5 percent of the state’s Latinx workforce will have a degree or high-value credential. This is barely half of the 60 percent goal articulated above.

Ensuring that at least 60 percent of the state’s workforce holds a college credential, and that at least 60 percent of the state’s Latinx, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native residents hold a college credential will generate an additional 2.5 million credentials over the coming decade. Moving from a 32.5 percent college attainment rate among Latinx Californians in the workforce to a 60 percent college attainment would result in 1.26 million additional Bachelor’s degrees and 1.16 million additional Associate’s degrees and certificates for the state’s Latinx residents alone. Read more