California needs to reinvent its higher higher education system, writes John Aubrey Douglass, senior research fellow at Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, in the Los Angeles Times.
California’s leaders should set an ambitious goal: “that the state match or exceed the access and degree-production rates of the highest-achieving states or, better yet, international competitors,” Douglass writes. That will require increasing access to four-year universities.
Currently, more than 70 percent of the state’s college students enroll in underfunded community colleges. Most attend part-time, leading to high attrition rates. Only 18 percent of community college students earn an associate degree. By contrast, 45 percent of California State University students and 90 percent of University of California students complete a bachelor’s degree.
Instead of increasing access, Cal State campuses are cutting enrollment to cope with budget cuts, which have forced faculty layoffs and reduced course offerings.
We should allow a key number of community colleges, perhaps 10 or more, to grant four-year as well as two-year degrees.
. . . In Florida, for example, the experiment is about “training people for real jobs,” says Miami Dade Community College President Eduardo J. Padron, who cited nursing and teaching programs.
“You won’t see us starting a B.A. in sociology. We’re offering degrees in things the universities don’t want to do,” Padron said.
Some community colleges could focus on preparing students to transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree, while others could specialize in remediation, Douglass suggests. A “gap year” program to get students up to the college level could raise graduation rates in the Cal State and UC systems.
Adult learners could utilize a new online California Open University.
To pay for these changes, the state should charge higher tuition to wealthy students and international students — even at the community college level — to subsidize low- and middle-income students, Douglass suggests.