Too Many California Students Not Ready for College

Pamela Burdman and Marshall S. Smith

California’s vibrant economy is in jeopardy because we aren’t producing enough educated workers to meet the state’s future needs, according to a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California. The authors see only one solution: improving college attendance and graduation rates of Californians.
High-profile attempts by top universities to serve more low-income and minority students are important, but they won’t solve this problem. Only a limited number of students can attend these schools. Substantially increasing graduation rates will require lifting achievement levels for students who are not admitted to public universities.
If approved by lawmakers, a $33 million investment tucked inside the state budget represents a rare attempt to work toward that goal. The funds would ensure continuation of an audacious initiative that is shining a spotlight on a problem that has historically seemed intractable: the large number of students who don’t succeed in college because they don’t complete remedial English or math.
This effort represents the best chance in years to reverse that trend. It is being coordinated by instructors at the state’s community colleges, and no one is better positioned to tackle the problem. But the plan will not work without the serious engagement of colleges and sustained state support.