Illuminating Innovations: Advancing Enrollment at California State University

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California’s public higher education institutions have been crucial in positioning the state as the 5th largest economy in the world. The economic benefits of higher education include higher annual wages, lifetime earnings, and wealth accumulation for individuals, as well as higher tax revenues and lower social program costs for the state. College degree attainment is associated with better health, higher civic engagement, and stronger personal relationships, but despite evidence for these benefits, recent surveys demonstrate growing skepticism about the value of college because of affordability concerns and unclear connections to rewarding employment. These doubts, along with demographic changes leading to fewer high school graduates in some states, have likely contributed to reductions in college enrollment in recent years, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Campaign for College Opportunity is proud to release a new publication, Illuminating Innovations: Advancing Enrollment at California State University (CSU), which summarizes data on recent changes in undergraduate enrollment in the CSU system and identifies significant but varying enrollment challenges across campuses and student groups. We examine responses to enrollment challenges at campuses that fared better in undergraduate enrollment levels over the last few years, particularly for Latinx and Black student populations, and find their efforts to maintain and grow their enrollments align with the CSU system’s priorities under Graduation Initiative 2025. We also offer several recommendations to improve state and system policies supporting undergraduate enrollment and to maintain the benefits to California of degree attainment.