Success in pursuing a quality secondary education and some sort of further education after high school—whether a four-year degree, an associate degree, a technical certification, or on-the-job training—is essential if students are to have fulfilling and successful lives as adults.
A high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient to provide today's K-12 students with reliable access to a living wage, much less upward mobility or a middle-class lifestyle. On average, adults with higher levels of education tend to earn more. But a range of secondary-to-postsecondary paths can lead to success in the workplace. For example, national weekly earnings data for the second quarter of 2009 show that—among U.S. workers who are at least 25 years old and working full-time—workers whose highest level of education is an associate degree or some college often earn more than the lowest-earning quartile of workers who have attained a bachelor's (but not an advanced) degree.
Student success in charting paths through secondary and postsecondary education is also important for the prosperity of California as a whole. Analyses by various organizations in the state point to California's growing need for highly-skilled workers, both with and without four-year degrees, as new industries emerge and the baby boomer generation enters retirement age. The state's economy and the standard of living of its citizenry depend, in part, on today's students being ready to take on these roles and responsibilities tomorrow.
The California Community Colleges provide crucial paths to adult success for many students. Among other services, the 112 colleges in the system offer open access to associate's degrees, career technical certificates, and transfer to four-year institutions. In 2007 in California, 70% of Latino, 66% of African American, and 61% of white high school graduates who enrolled in a public college the following fall did so at a community college. And although the majority of public college-going Asian and Pacific Islander graduates went to either UC or CSU, about 41% began postsecondary study at a community college. Improving students' chances of success when they arrive at a community college is a key topic of current education policy.