Tuesday, August 18, 2009

California needs to ramp up college education, study finds

This piece lays out the education-skilled-worker crisis in California as follows: 1 we need more college graduates in CA; 2 This is hard because of capacity ["The problem, according to the institute, is that population growth has outpaced the expansion of state schools, leaving students with limited options for college. "]; 3 but even if we had capacity; 3 immigrants complicate the picture [unclear, two possible meanings: a) meaning public support for education? b) immigrants even by the second generation still register low levels of education]; 4 Even with the recession, there is a need for highly skilled workers [tho not necessarily newly minted graduates], especially the skilled help required to service the retiring baby boomers.

Problem in getting to college-going goal is:

1 Not all Ss adequately prepared for college
2 Students don't have money to go to college


1 Government & other sources presumably need to provide financial aid to get more "good students" into college. Hence, merit-based system. [Note: Never mind that merit correlates to socioeconomic status advantages that overlap with ethnicity.]

2 UC can raise fees for higher income students in order to offer financial aid to poor families.

3 Offering community college opportunities to high school students. So eliminate limits so more students can avail themselves of this opportunity in CA.

4 Create a higher education commission that would oversee the state school system.

5 Fund public schooling generally across the state.

Interesting, (perhaps too) concisely written. -Angela

By Dan Abendschein | Whittier Daily News

A new report estimates that California will have a shortage of 1 million college graduates by the year 2025.

The report by the Public Policy Institute of California suggests that employers would have to move jobs outside the state to find qualified workers, or bring in employees from out of state to fill positions here.

The problem, according to the institute, is that population growth has outpaced the expansion of state schools, leaving students with limited options for college. With many highly-educated older Californians from the Baby Boomer generation set to retire, the demand for jobs requiring higher education are bound to increase, according to the institute.

A growing immigrant population also has changed the outlook on education, said Hans Johnson of the PPIC.

"First-generation Latino immigrants often come to the U.S. with very little education," said Johnson. "Even in the second-generation, you see higher education attendance rates are a lot lower."

California has a lot of demand in high-tech industries. That is also true within Los Angeles County, where engineering, movie production and other technical positions will be in particular demand, said Jack Kyser the chief economist of Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.

"The aerospace industry, in particular, is going to have a lot of Baby Boomers retiring," said Kyser. "In the longer term, we've got to be concerned with the low number of students in those fields."

Kyser added there also will be increased demand for medical technician jobs and possibly for skilled workers in green energy or other new technology jobs that could be created in the following decade or so.

Currently, he said, with the recession, firms are not looking to add new skilled graduates. In the long term, however, with economic recovery, a shortage is likely.

The easiest solution, said Johnson, is for the state to give more people financial aid needed to get them into school and keep them there.

Specifically, Johnson said, the state needs to work on getting more students to college. The report suggests increasing the college attendance rate from 56 percent to 61 percent, and improving the transfer rate from community colleges, while also working to hike the California State University system graduate rate. Those goals would fix about half of the shortage, but would still leave the state 500,000 graduates short.

"We've identified some less expensive goals that the state can achieve even with the current budget problems," said Johnson.

California has gone from being one of the top states in secondary education to being in the middle of the pack, according to the report. In 1960, the state ranked eighth in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree nationwide. By 2006, it had fallen to 23rd.

Those changes, Johnson said, indicate not that the state has less educated people than it used to, but rather that it has not increased its population of college graduates as fast as other states.

The basic problems facing the schools are two-fold, said Johnson. First, not all students are academically prepared to enter college. Second, a lot of students have problems coming up with enough money to pay their way through college.

The government should offer more money to students with good grades, according to the report.

The UC and CSU system, which often serve students with a higher income than those in community college, could also consider raising their fees for those families that can afford the school, while offering more aid to students who can't, said Johnson.

"Right now those schools are considered very strong academic choices, but still have very low tuition rates," said Johnson. "A lot of students who attend the UCs can afford to pay higher than the rate that is offered, while a lot of other students can't afford to attend."

Finally, the report recommends opening up more community college classes to high school students - giving them a chance to get early experience in what will be required of them when they attend the schools.

That idea is echoed by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Ca ada Flintridge, the head of the Assembly's education committee. He has introduced a bill that removes a rule that limits the number of students who can attend community college early.

"Years ago there were fiscal abuses where high school students were enrolled in phantom classes that weren't actually being taught," said Portantino. "But the legislature overreacted and put in rules that put in bureaucratic red tape that is keeping kids from getting a chance to attend these classes early."

Portantino also has another bill that would create a higher education commission that would set binding goals for the state school system.

Nevertheless, Portantino and Johnson both concede that without finding more funding for the public secondary schools, the state will fall short of its goals. The current budget situation has caused the CSU system to cut the number of students it is admitting.

The state also will need to improve the performance of its high schools to see improvement in college graduation rates, Portantino added.

"We're doing the best that we can with a terrible budget situation," said Portantino. "But ultimately we can't get where we need to be without more education expenditures."

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