California: The Return on Investment to Increasing Postsecondary Credential Attainment

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California Must Improve College Participation and Credential Attainment Rates to Remain Competitive


  • To remain globally competitive, the U.S. and each state should ensure that at least 60% of adults ages 25 to 64 have an associate or bachelor’s degree by 2025. In California, the current rate is 38.8%.
  • California ranks 16th among 50 states in the size of the degree gap it needs to fill. To meet the 60% goal, it will need to produce an additional 3,519,187 degrees by 2025.
  • By achieving rates of the top-performing states, California can produce about 550,000 bachelor’s degrees, 1,700,000 associate degrees and 1,000,000 certificates by 2025.


Meeting Top Performance Goal Produces Significant Personal Economic Return


Per capita income increases when the state meets top performers

  • Under current postsecondary investment patterns, annual personal per capita income in California is projected to decrease by about $13 in 2025.
  • By meeting top performers, annual per capita income would increase significantly more, by approximately $1,500 in 2025.


Meeting Top Performance Goal Produces Significant Economic Returns to the State

Status quo produces negative returns

Under current postsecondary investment patterns, California’s state revenues will decrease by about $50 million in 2025.

Meeting top performance pays off

By meeting top performance, California will generate more annual revenue, topping approximately $10 billion in 2025.

State Revenues Exceed Costs When Top Performance is Met

Status Quo: Costs exceed revenues

Under current postsecondary investment patterns, California’s postsecondary costs exceed state revenues by about $119
million by 2025.

Meet top performance: Revenues exceed costs

By meeting top performance, California’s revenues exceed postsecondary costs by approximately $8 billion by

This analysis was prepared using the CLASP-NCHEMS Return on Investment Dashboard tool.  See