June 23, 2005

Population and performance trends
point to shortage of college graduates

Current trends mean California may not get the highly educated workforce it needs to stay competitive without quick action to improve rates of college participation and completion among Latinos and African Americans, according to two new reports released today by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, a non-partisan higher education policy research center at Sacramento State.

Both reports cite substantial differences in college participation rates among different ethnic groups. College attendance is highest among Asian Americans and lowest among Latinos. If these rates continue, the authors say, the state will see a decline in the overall rate of college participation over the next decade as Latinos become a larger share of the college-age population.

The authors worry that state education planners are assuming that a rise in the number of college-age students will automatically mean more students going to college, and they warn that substantial changes in college-going behavior would have to occur to meet those projections.

The report “Variations on a Theme” presents the first comprehensive analysis of California’s higher education performance as detailed in the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education’s fifty-state report card. It analyzes the center’s summary measures, as well as additional performance indicators, and breaks down performance by race and region in the state. It finds substantial gaps across regions and racial groups in college participation and completion as well as statewide shortfalls in several areas, most notably in the low rates at which high school graduates move directly into college and the related low college completion rates.

The second report, “Shared Solutions,” suggests that the state needs to plan if it is to get significant increases in the number of Latino and African American students attending and completing college. And it warns that serving this desired enrollment level will be expensive unless universities and community colleges find ways to get more bang for their buck. The report suggests the efficiency discussions should focus on increasing return on investment rather than on cutting budgets and increasing workloads. California, it notes, ranks close to the bottom on most measures of student completion suggesting “a poor return on the state’s investment.”

There is no one solution to financing the reforms, the analysis suggests. Instead, the authors propose a “shared solution” of increased state appropriations, new student fee/student aid policies, campus-based savings and “systemic efficiencies” to improve the flow of students from high school to college completion, thereby increasing the state’s return on its higher education investment.

In streamlining the process, the authors suggest a task force to look at such topics as high school preparation, assessment and placement for college-level courses, community college transfer, course availability, ability to earn college units in high school, the number of units required for degrees, and counseling and other student support services that affect retention, completion and time-to-degree.

The authors warn that some policy reforms require substantial investments of time and resources. But they suggest that such investments could benefit the state as a whole through increased tax revenues and reduced social service costs as more students earn college degrees.

Both reports are available under “Institute Publications” at the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy website at www.csus.edu/ihe. Media assistance is available by contacting the Sacramento State Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.


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