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Report: California Colleges Produce Low Number of STEM Graduates

A new report highlights the mismatch between the availability of STEM jobs and the number of qualified workers in the Golden State.

California, often thought of as booming tech hub, has far fewer students graduating with STEM and health degrees from public colleges and universities than the state’s businesses need, according to a new report from the Campaign for College Opportunity.

The report, “Needed: Sy(STEM)ic Response,” revealed that California has more entry-level STEM jobs than any other state and a growing health workforce, but the state ranks near the bottom of the country in graduating STEM and health majors to fill those jobs. California ranks 37th in the country for a bachelor’s degree completion in engineering, 38th for computer science and 48th in health. For associate degrees, the state is 47th in computer science, 49th in engineering and 49th in health.

Only 33 percent of California State University students who start in a STEM major graduate with a STEM degree within six years. For the 2013-2014 academic year, about 5 percent of degrees awarded by California Community Colleges were STEM degrees.

“The trend has serious implications not just for the workforce, but for all Californians who depend on these industries and particularly health professionals every day,” according to the report.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • The California State University system is twice the size of the University of California system, but it produces almost an equal number of bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science; and

  • The low number of bachelor’s degree nursing programs in the public system hinders California’s ability to meet workforce demands.

The report provides several explanations for California’s lag in producing degrees, citing insufficient state funding and a shortage of STEM and health program offerings in public colleges and universities. The design of the public higher education system is also cited as a contributing factor, since few high school graduates directly enter four-year universities. Additionally, broken and limited STEM/health transfer pathways between community colleges and public universities and low rates of degree completion in both systems are contributing to the overall gap.   

In response to the results of the study, the report offers several recommendations to help California produce more STEM degrees and meet workforce needs in the upcoming years. Recommendations include: creating a statewide plan for higher education; increasing enrollment capacity; increasing funding; prioritizing the development of pathways for community college students in STEM and health majors; and closing equity gaps for minority students.

To access the complete report, visit the Campaign for College Opportunity site.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at [email protected].

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