There is a lot to celebrate about the 2021-22 California state budget agreement, from historic investments in college affordability to expansions in low-income Californians’ health care access and more resources to tackle homelessness. Included alongside these momentous investments is less well publicized but also critically important funding for high quality education data statewide.
Notably, the budget fully funds the development of the California Cradle-to-Career data system, which will link California’s existing education, workforce, financial aid, and social service data. This new system will allow policymakers, educators, and the public to better understand and address disparities in educational and economic opportunities, ensure accountability over taxpayer expenditures, and improve outcomes for students throughout California. Especially in light of the disproportionate impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color and low-income communities across California, the data system will be a critical tool in identifying and targeting resources where they are most needed to close equity gaps.
TICAS has supported the Cradle-to-Career Data System since its inception, serving as a member of the Policy & Analytics Advisory Committee. We’ve also sought to highlight the value of statewide longitudinal data systems (SLDS) in our advocacy and through our factsheet, and invited experts from other states to speak about the benefits of SLDSs for their states and students in our May 2021 webinar. So, it’s no surprise that TICAS is thrilled about the investment in the system in the budget agreement. Once completed, the California Cradle-to-Career data system will be one of the most robust – if not the most robust – SLDS in the country. Policymakers will be able to use it to make better informed decisions about how to improve student outcomes and college affordability across the state.
But wait, that’s not all! The budget also includes funding for the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) to gather data on workforce outcomes at for-profit colleges. This is a key milestone because it means that BPPE can finally begin collecting and reporting the employment and wage data for students at for-profit institutions in California as required by AB 1340 (2019). We already know that far too many students who attend for-profit colleges leave with burdensome student loan debt and no meaningful degree. By allowing the Bureau to collect other information “warranted for the purpose of inclusion in the Cradle-to-Career Data System,” the budget language will enable BPPE to collect additional data necessary to understand how well for-profit colleges are preparing students for careers, inform state policy, and better protect students from predatory colleges. This funding is a victory for the students of California in and of itself and is equally worth celebrating.
These investments in state educational data will allow California to pursue data-driven policies to benefit and protect California’s students, and they could not come at a more critical time. And that’s something to be excited about!