California’s public colleges and universities are failing to graduate enough students with degrees in health fields and the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — to meet the state’s growing job demands, according to a new report.
The report bysaid California ranks near the bottom nationally in the rate of bachelor and associate degrees in those subjects at a time that it has far more STEM entry-level jobs than any other state.
“What’s pretty striking is that in spite of having the largest college and university systems in the nation, California is so far behind,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on higher education. “This is the same state that invented the iPhone, and is home to Silicon Valley.”
According to the report, by 2018 the California economy will require 1.1 million STEM jobs. Almost 80 percent of these jobs will be in computer science or engineering. Yet only 33 percent of California’s population will have college degrees.
“We’re working with a higher education system that’s still based in the 1960s. We send only one-third of high school graduates to four-year universities,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity.
The report also found that California falls far behind other states when it comes to Latinos earning STEM degrees. For example, California ranked last out of the 10 states with the largest Latino student populations for the rate of Latinos earning engineering and computer science degrees.
Here are some key findings:
- California ranks 48th in the rate of bachelor’s degrees awarded in health; 37th in engineering; and 38th in computer science.
- The state ranks 49th for the rate of associate degrees awarded in health, 47th in computer science and 49th in engineering.
- Despite being twice the size of the University of California system, the California State University system produces an almost equal number of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science.
- Only 33 percent of CSU students who start in a STEM major graduate with a STEM degree within six years.
Siqueiros said California’s higher education priorities have failed to keep pace with industry needs.
“We’re working with a higher education system that’s still based in the 1960s,” she said. “We send only one-third of high school graduates to four-year universities. That’s not in sync with what businesses demand.”
Other educators, business leaders and researchers have pointed to the large influx of foreign workers recruited to fill STEM jobs in California as evidence the state’s higher education system needs an overhaul.
The report also listed recommendations aimed at increasing the number of students in STEM and health pathways that include: increasing the enrollment capacity at both the CSU and UC systems, especially in STEM and health degree programs; increasing overall funding for higher education; streamlining the process for community college students to transfer to four-year universities; and increasing the emphasis on math and science proficiency in high school.
“We see that some of this is already happening as the state has begun to increase investments in higher education,” Siqueiros said. “But we still need to hold these institutions accountable.”