What should we teach?

CSU Cal State San Jose future of work
San Jose State commencement, May 27, 2017. Photo by LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group

The higher education system has to evolve with the changing workplace but, too often, it struggles to keep up. Not only do many of California’s public colleges suffer from low graduation rates, but they lack capacity to train workers in high-demand fields. 

California State University, for example, is in the midst of a 10-year campaign to boost its four-year graduation rate from 19% to 40%. By comparison, the University of California’s undergraduate rate is nearly 68%.

And though the CSU is making strides to produce more graduates with science, technology, engineering and math degrees, applicants who qualified for basic nursing are being turned away at all 16 campuses that offer the program due to insufficient slots. 

At the community college level, there are early efforts to help adults get retrained. Specifically, the state’s new online community college, Calbright, aims to prepare working adults for careers in the high-demand fields of cybersecurity, medical coding and information technology. Enrollment began in October.

Still, the Newsom administration worries training and upskilling workers isn’t enough because one in five low-wage workers in California have a college degree, suggesting education doesn’t guarantee higher wages.