Skip to main content


California Case Study 2014

In 2013-14, Finney along with three of her graduate students developed a project to understand the relationship between public policy and state performance in California. California’s outsized influence on higher education makes it worthy of continued research.

As pioneered by the 1960 Master Plan, California’s public system of higher education was the envy of the nation for over 30 years. Its three-part system—consisting of California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and the prestigious University of California (UC)—was designed to ensure college access for all Californians as well as to promote excellence in research.

But California’s public education system has not kept pace with economic changes. Only 38.8% of adults over 25 years of age had an associate’s degree or higher in 2012, placing California 23rd in the nation in degree attainment. Deep cuts in state funding and the lack of a long-term, viable finance policy for higher education, as well as political indifference about higher education policy, have forced California’s public colleges and universities to reduce enrollment, staff, faculty, and student services while increasing tuition and fees.

If current trends continue, the state will experience severe shortfalls in the number of people with the workforce certificates and degrees needed to ensure prosperity and social mobility for the majority of Californians.

Press Coverage 

Huffington Post: The Blog (5/14/14): Higher Education Is Messy in California

Capital Public Radio (4/29/14): California University Leaders Dismiss Report that University System Failing

Central Valley Business Times (4/29/14): California’s public higher education system faulted

Los Angeles Times blog (4/28/14): Report calls for reform in state's higher education master plan