Postsecondary & Transitions to Work

The Postsecondary and Transitions to Work Program Area seeks to make higher education and the opportunities it affords more equitable. College degree attainment is a key lever for reducing our nation’s rising income inequality. Data show that adults with a bachelor’s degree earn a wage premium of $27,000 compared to those with only a high school diploma. These figures are even more dramatic for traditionally underrepresented groups.  In concert with a host of other social policies, improving our ability to move students into and through college is a big part of solving our income inequality crisis. 

Colleges and universities need to do a better job at shoring up the multiple pathways that lead to a degree.  This includes strengthening the mechanism that gets students to the college’s doors – either for the first time or for returning students – and ensuring that those who start a course of study successfully complete.

Public policy also plays an essential role in establishing smoother transitions from K-12 to college and the workforce, closing achievement gaps, improving college affordability, reducing the overall time to degree, and ensuring that full-time employment allows for career flexibility and upward mobility.  These are the types of issues our program area will tackle through research and policy development.

California Competes

The Program Area’s core project, California Competes, has addressed these issues by examining California’s looming degree achievement gap and developing practical policy solutions for how both the state and higher education institutions might solve them.  In our seminal report The Road Ahead, we found that California would be short 2.3 million degrees by 2025, and developed policy recommendations for closing that gap. As a result of our recommendations, California now allocates funding for community colleges that gives first priority to districts identified as having the greatest unmet need.

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