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Among all large public universities, Cal State Los Angeles ranks 2nd (after City College of New York) in economic mobility, propelling students from lower-income families into middle- and upper-income groups.
These and other efforts—such as Guided Pathways, a new initiative to help students establish clear objectives and provide support to achieve their goals—hold a great deal of promise for improving student outcomes.One of the central challenges facing higher education today is ensuring that college serves as a ladder for economic and social mobility.This challenge is especially acute in California, where 60% of high school students are identified by the California Department of Education as socioeconomically disadvantaged (meaning they are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch or come from a family in which neither parent has graduated high school).Better coordination between UC, CSU, the community colleges, and our K–12 system can be a cost-effective way of providing students with a seamless pathway from high school to a higher education degree or certificate.Improving access and programs, including financial aid and student support services, to students with the most need can also help reduce gaps in educational attainment and economic success.The University of California has an excellent track record of graduating low-income and underrepresented students, and California State University has made significant progress in improving graduation rates for all groups. CSU has developed a new and ambitious graduation initiative that would substantially increase graduation rates and completely close graduation gaps by 2025.
However, neither institution has been able to fully enroll all qualified applicants.
To close the workforce skills gap, California needs to find ways to improve college completion among students from underrepresented groups, including Latino, African American, low-income, and first-generation students.
The good news is that, compared to other states, California’s public colleges and universities enroll a diverse population.
The role of higher education officials and state legislators is to ensure that resources are spent on programs that really work for students.
PPIC is already working on a number of projects that focus on improving student success, and we look forward to continuing to contribute to such efforts.
PPIC has estimated that California’s colleges and universities are not producing enough bachelor’s degrees and will fall 1.1 million degrees short of economic demand by 2030 unless we improve access to and completion in our higher education systems.