This essay discusses the major financial and organizational challenges facing California’s higher education system, and offers a possible pathway to reforms. Most critics and observers of California’s system remain focused on incremental and largely marginal improvements, transfixed by the state’s persistent financial problems and inability to engage in long-range planning for a population that is projected to grow from approximately 37 million to some 60 million by 2050. A number of studies indicate that California’s higher education system will not keep pace with labor needs in the state, let alone affording opportunities for socioeconomic mobility that once characterized California. California needs a “re-imagined” network of colleges and universities and a plan for “Smart Growth.”

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