Ensuring Access with Quality to California’s Community Colleges
In its 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, California became the first state to adopt an explicit public policy extending college opportunity to every adult who could benefit from it. The primary responsibility for implementing this vision was assigned to the California Community Colleges, a system that has since become the foundation of college opportunity in the state. Too few people realize the critical role that the community colleges have played in making California’s tripartite higher education system a national and world leader for over four decades. Although the equality of opportunity envisioned by the Master Plan has never been fully realized, most Californians seeking academic degrees or employment training have done so at the community colleges. In this new century, renewed commitment to college opportunity is urgently needed—more so than ever before. As this report shows, however, the foundation of the state’s longstanding commitment to college opportunity—that is, the community colleges themselves—has eroded substantially.
Today, the knowledge-based, global economy makes extensive education and training beyond high school a state policy goal of highest priority, one with serious implications for virtually all Californians. The broad availability of postsecondary education expands the personal and employment opportunities of every state resident; improves the economic competitiveness and well-being of communities and the state as a whole; and enhances the state’s democratic values and institutions. At the same time, California’s 1960 promise of opportunity has become problematic. The chapters that follow are a call for action to California’s educational, governmental, philanthropic, and civic leaders. All must share responsibility to renew, preserve, and extend the opportunities that have shaped California for almost half a century. For the good of all, the current generation of Californians must be at least as well educated as our own.