The “dysfunctional governance” structure of California’s giant community-college system and the absence of an independent and accountable statewide body to steer higher-education policy toward the state’s work-force needs are undermining the economy, says a report released on Thursday by California Competes, a council of civic and business leaders.
Over the next 13 years California will need 5.5 million people with “meaningful” higher-education degrees and certificates in science, mathematics, and other fields—2.3 million more than previously projected, says the report, “The Road Ahead.” But it warns that the state is unlikely to achieve that goal unless it overhauls how its community colleges are run and how state educational resources are allocated. Failure to act, it says, will also perpetuate the unusually big gap in educational attainment that separates white and Asian students in California from its minority citizens. Half of California’s whites have an associate degree or higher; among Latinos, African-Americans, and Native Americans, the figure is 18 percent.
That attainment gap is one reason California Competes focused so heavily on community-college reform, said Mayor Bob Foster of Long Beach, Calif., a member of California Competes who spoke on Thursday at a news conference at Long Beach City College, where the report was released. For those students, the state’s 112 community colleges “may be their shot to get educated,” but the colleges need to be improved so more students get a credential that will help them get a job or enable them to transfer to a four-year institution.
“We’ve got to find better ways to deliver advising to our students” as well, said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, president of the college, a two-year institution, who also spoke at the news conference.
The report recommends strengthening the say of the community-college system’s chancellor over budgetary and personnel policies, and eliminating laws that now give academic senates within each of the 72 local community-college districts the right to set policy even though they are not ultimately held responsible for how the colleges perform. (Read more.)