One family in California finds relief as public universities answer the call

Had the privilege of attending a commencement ceremony at the University of California, Santa Barbara, set against the picturesque UCSB Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean.

More than 6,000 undergraduates celebrated their bachelor’s degrees through multiple ceremonies over two days to accommodate the large cohort.

The crossing of thousands of students across the stage symbolized California’s monumental achievement unparalleled elsewhere.

These students faced pandemic challenges, missing high school graduations and beginning college remotely, with uncertainties until the last moment.

An emotional moment for me as my daughter was among the graduates.

Over 60,000 undergraduates at the University of California and more than 100,000 at the California State University system received degrees in recent weeks.

The diverse students’ efforts culminating in graduation highlighted the collaborative work of students, families, and educational institutions.

Skepticism about the education quality due to high student numbers at UC and CSU campuses proved unfounded in the end.

Despite increased enrollments, students like my daughter and son thrived academically.

Educational achievements, including my children’s, mirror the California universities’ commitment to excellence.

For instance, UC Santa Barbara awarded 50% more undergraduate degrees in comparison to two decades ago.

Enrollment increases brought challenges, evident in the living situations and class availability for students like my daughter.

Despite these obstacles, my daughter persisted and successfully navigated her college journey.

California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, advocating for increased postsecondary opportunities, laid the foundation for my children’s success.

Continuous growth in bachelor’s degrees in California reflects the state’s dedication to educational access and excellence.

While progress has been made, ensuring high graduation rates remains a priority for California’s public universities.

Efforts to improve graduation rates, especially among underrepresented and low-income students, are ongoing.

California’s focus on quality education rather than mass-produced degrees bodes well for the state’s future and the students it serves.

Louis Freedberg is Interim CEO of EdSource.

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