We’ve written before about how the Americans most impacted by the covid-19 pandemic are the people who were being least served and supported before the pandemic. Helping them through these new problems means we have to fix the old ones.
California Competes, which researches higher education’s relationship to economic succes, has made that point very succinctly with research published last month showing that the Californians most hurt by the coronavirus economic downturn are adults lacking college degrees.
It’s a population that is much larger than many of us realize. California Compete’s research shows that a full 50% - half of Californians - aged 25 - 54 do not have college degrees.
This population is vulnerable.
- 72% of them don’t have health insurance
- 62% of them live in households that don’t earn a living wage
- 57% of them have dependent children
This population is significantly made up of people of color, who have traditionally been woefully underserved by higher education - but it is also significantly made up of people who live in California’s rural areas, where there are many fewer colleges and universities to support them. And many of them - 63% - don’t have high speed internet access.
The problem California faces is that becoming prosperous in a post-plague economy means getting these people back to work, and into jobs where they can live securely and spend on the things that make local economies go. But these are also the people worst served by the institutions that support economic opportunity and mobility.
California Competes thinks there’s an opportunity here, and Calbright agrees. Building bridges into prosperity for working adults without college degrees will create more prosperity for all Californians. As California Competes writes: “this population would greatly benefit from streamlined pathways to degrees and certificates. Now more than ever, California’s colleges and universities must prioritize these adults.”
That's what we do. Our beta-testing started before the pandemic hit, and we are laser focused on those needs. Because we are all in this together. This pandemic has taught us what we should have already known: when we leave people behind, we all suffer.