In our 21st century economy, the vast majority of middle-class jobs require education beyond high school. However, in 2014, only about five out of every ten Bay Area graduates were eligible for college, and just three out of every ten Latino or African American students.
Many people assume that the Bay Area – with its strong economy, high-paying jobs, and renowned universities – should have good, if not great, public schools. This is certainly true in the wealthiest parts of the region, which boast some of the top test scores in the state. But across the Bay Area, the vast majority of Latino, African-American, and low-income students are being left behind, unready for college and unable to compete in the new economy.
This is a region-wide problem. In the five Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and San Francisco, there are some stand-out schools that buck the trend, but the pattern is similar across all school districts and communities.
Big Gaps in High School Graduation Rates
In the Bay Area, high schools are graduating 93 percent of Asian students, but just 74 percent of Latino students and 70 percent of African American students. Non-graduates don’t have a shot at this region’s high-skill, high-wage jobs. The average high school graduate earns $290,000 more over the course of a lifetime than students who drop out. UC Santa Barbara’s California Dropout Research Project estimates that for every cohort of students who reach age 20 without completing high school, the average economic loss for California is $46.4 billion.
Not Enough High School Graduates are Prepared for College
Just graduating from high school isn’t a ticket into California public colleges. Students must take and pass a series of courses called A through G (A–G) to be eligible to enter a four-year California public college — either the California State University or University of California systems. The A–G requirements include fifteen specific high school courses where a grade of C or better is required.
Of all the students who graduated from Bay Area high schools last year, 53 percent had completed the A-G requirements, with that rate at just 34 percent for Latino students and 30 percent for African American students.
The majority of California students are students of color and 59 percent come from low-income families. Increasing the number of college-educated workers means we must better support students who have historically been left behind. Currently, the Public Policy Institute of California projects a state shortage of over one million college graduates in 2025 if current trends continue.
On the bright side, some schools are bucking the trend.