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Davis, California

Thursday, August 5, 2021

California faces shortage of college-educated workers

The California economy may face even greater strife if the current trend of students graduating college continues.

A recent study conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) indicated that the number of students graduating college in the state of California is on the decline.

The California economy is increasingly demanding more highly educated individuals, and not enough people are graduating with bachelorsdegrees to meet this demand, the report found.

While 86 percent of the state’s college students attend California public higher education schools, California still lags behind many other states in terms of graduation rates.

In 1960, California ranked eighth in the nation in the share of adults 25 to 34 years of age with a bachelor’s degree. By 2006, it had fallen to 23rd place, the report said.

Experts believe that the declining trend of college graduates is not only due to California’s public higher education system, but also California’s socioeconomic makeup.

“There is a high immigration to California, so [the trend] is not only the outcome of what our education system is doing,said Adrian Griffin, research director with the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

The lack of highly educated people entering into the workforce is not necessarily due to the decline in college graduates, but rather the current demands of the labor market, Griffin said.

“I think in the next year or so the job prospects for college graduates will be pretty poor,he said.Both declining economic activity and the fact that so many people … approaching retirement age are planning to postpone retirement.

Despite the current difficulty students are facing, as the state and national economy recovers, the demand for college students in the workforce will go up, Griffin said.

Paul Heckman, associate dean of the UC Davis School of Education also recognized this worrisome trend.

“I think [California] also has a bigger problem – which is the number of young people who are dropping out of high school,Heckman said.If you are in a major urban area where there is a high poverty rate and many children of color – anywhere between 50 and 70 percent of children of color are dropping out.

Beyond the problem of high school students dropping out, is the fact that California universities are becoming more and more selective with their admission processes, he said.

“Here at UC Davis, what we’ve done is we have just announced in our admissions that we were more selective this year than in previous years,he said.

If there are not seats available at colleges in the state, even if high school students do graduate, their odds of getting into college are lower, and thus they cannot receive a higher education, Heckman said.

This ultimately perpetuates the cycle of individuals with bachelor’s degrees not entering the workforce, he added.

“It seems that [California] has set up a system for which we are getting [the results reflected in the study],Heckman said.We can wring our hands, but it should not surprise us.

A low number of highly educated people will not only be a detriment to the workforce, but California will be less of a healthy and vibrant society, he said.

“For example, the more educated you are, the less demands you make on the healthcare system, because you know more about what you have to do to say healthy,Heckman said.

It is more important to have a healthy and thriving society, because it encourages better economic circumstance, he said.

 

CAITLIN COBB can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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