The performance of California higher education is continuing to decline, according to the findings of a new report by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at California State University, Sacramento.
The new report, titled “Consequences of Neglect: Performance Trends in California Higher Education,” uses national data to take an in-depth look at California higher education.
It analyzes the state’s higher education performance in various areas and in relation to other states and by region and by race/ethnicity. Researchers found that California’s higher education performance is average, at best, and trending downward. In addition, the “average” performance rating disguises the significant performance gaps across regions and racial/ethnic groups.
“The outcomes documented in this report are not ones to celebrate,” said Nancy Shulock, director of IHELP. “California is suffering the consequences of resting on past reputations and outdated policies — or no policies at all to guide some critical aspects of higher education — and is producing young generations not as well educated as we need.”
The report addresses the issues leading to the downward trends, including a lack of effective coordination across all of higher education, no state-level planning, and ineffective policy leadership despite continued calls to set goals and develop plans to improve student success and increase the number of college graduates.
California’s average performance, compared to other states, in the categories of affordability, completion, benefits and finance, reflects a mix of specific findings, according to the report.
California performs better on measures of affordability that count only tuition and fees, because tuition is still comparatively low and Cal Grants cover tuition costs for many low-income families. But when cost of living is factored in, performance drops, indicating that many of the state’s middle class families struggle with the overall cost of college attendance. In the area of finance, California ranks a little above the median in state and local tax revenue allocated for higher education.
However, California ranks 50th among states in total funding per student as tuition revenue in support of higher education is far below the national average, due to very low community college fees. Benefits associated with educational attainment are threatened as data show that each subsequent generation of Californians is less educated than the previous generation.
The only improvement in the last seven years has been in preparation of high schools students for college, but California is still worse than most states in that category. More high school students are participating in the Early Assessment Program and more eighth graders are proficient in English and math, but the state ranks no better than 39th in the share of eighth graders who score at the proficient level or better on the National Assessment of Education Progress.