Executive Summary
California: The Changing Context
Tidal Wave II Revisited
The Original Projections
The 1994 Projections vs.Today's Reality
Accounting for the Growth
Updated Projections
How the Cohorts Have Changed
Is This a Tidal Wave?
Improving Projections
About the National Center

home   about us   news   reports   crosstalk   search   links  

Page 13 of15

Improving the Accuracy of Predictions

Although we continue to be impressed by the general approach taken by the two state agencies primarily responsible for projecting higher education enrollments, there are a number of important improvements that can be made.

1. The Department of Finance projections of high school graduates is a critical part of the data used to project higher education undergraduate enrollments. Much of that work is dependent on the quality of the California Basic Education Data System (CBEDS). The system, which relies on teachers to report student attendance and to identify students by race and ethnicity, is of uneven quality. While there have been some improvements in CBEDS data, it is time for the Department of Education to carefully review its accuracy and take steps to improve it further.
The grade progression ratios the department uses are essential for arriving at the number of graduates projected for the future. Two issues arise out of an examination of the data. First, there is a very large and growing number of students who don't enroll in kindergarten five years after birth or in first grade six years after birth. These numbers are important since they drive much of the rest of the model. There is a lot of speculation about what happens to these students, but very little beyond speculation. This is an important data gap that needs to be examined in some detail. Secondly, in the ninth grade a reverse data problem occurs. Between grades eight and nine, a large number of students suddenly appear in the system, far exceeding the cohort from the prior year. Again, one can speculate about the numbers, but it is important for the accuracy of the projections to examine the causes for this apparent discrepancy.

2. It is now virtually impossible to parse out whether recent declines in K-12 enrollments by grade are attributable to out-of-state migration or actual changes in attendance patterns. The extent to which the decline can be attributed to any one cause is still a mystery. CBEDS is the primary tool used by the Department of Finance to project persistence rates annually in elementary and high schools.

In higher education, the situation is no better. Particularly frustrating is the difficulty in following students as they navigate the higher education system. Counting students who are concurrently enrolled in more than one system, or in more than one college within a system, leads to inaccurate estimates of the numbers actually served in higher education. It is incumbent that we begin laying the groundwork for establishing a student identification system to allow the state to follow students as they progress through the school systems and segments. The proposal to assign all children individual student identifiers (e.g., social security numbers) needs to be revived.

3. The Department of Finance at one time forecasted private elementary and high school enrollments. They no longer do so. The recent growth in attendance at private schools and in home schooling requires a thorough examination of these trends. The numbers are particularly important to the University of California, since a growing portion of its first-time freshmen are drawn from private schools. The Department of Finance, working closely with the Department of Education, should resume its projection series for private K-12 enrollment.

4. Another important data gap occurs in higher education: information reported voluntarily to CPEC by private higher education institutions is woefully inadequate. Private higher education offers an important and growing set of alternatives for meeting the access needs of California's citizens. The state can benefit from additional information about the rapidly growing, easily accessible higher education segments such as the University of Phoenix. CPEC should be funded to improve the quality and quantity of private higher education information, particularly from those institutions that are growing most rapidly. Assessing the capacity of the private colleges and universities to accommodate growth is an important part of the access solution. Currently these data simply are not made available in a systematic way.

5. Community colleges must do a better job of transmitting information to the other segments of higher education. Since CSU is particularly reliant on community college transfers, CSU's ability to project its enrollment needs is severely hampered by the community colleges' failure to provide such information. All segments, however, need to improve intersegmental data collection and distribution. Virtually every segmental policy impacting admission, fees, and course offerings has an impact on the other segments. If California is to effectively absorb over half-a-million new students in the relatively short term, the degree of collaboration and coordination among segments must be enhanced.

6. The Legislative Analyst makes a strong case for improving the way we assess the current capacity of existing institutions. If the segments were able to accommodate an undergraduate student population at its peak, isn't that the year that should be used for determining capital outlay needs? The fact is we don't know; the data do not tell us much about the adequacy or inadequacy of the level of accommodation. In order to assess the true costs of enrollment growth, more accurate information is needed.

7. While it is too early to make lasting judgements about the impact of Proposition 209 on access to California higher education, it is not too early for the segments to treat this issue in an intersegmental way. No one knows, for example, the impact that will result from the proposal to permit the top 4% of students from each high school to attend the University of California. Equally importantly, we do not know the impact such a policy would have on admissions to the other two segments. Access for historically underrepresented populations must be viewed as a challenge for the entire education system÷extending far beyond the segmental boundaries and requiring, as never before, a rethinking of educational policy from preschool to graduate school. Only a pervasive planning effort involving K-12 and all segments of higher education as full partners will fulfill California's commitment to providing every student with equal opportunities for quality education.


National Center logo
© 1998 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

HOME | about us | center news | reports & papers | national crosstalk | search | links | contact

site managed by NETView Communications