Addressing Wage Disparities
While Bay Area community colleges have long engaged in innovative OER projects (open education resources), their efforts have generally not deliberately included degree or certificate programs that position graduates for success in the highest paying, highest demand Bay Area careers—including computing, architectural and engineering, and healthcare. In 2016, with the exception of a few colleges, nearly all of the ZTC degrees developed were in programs such as child development, sociology, and general education—fields that do not address Bay Area wage disparities, wherein 68% of Black and 72% of Latino residents are low income, compared to 35% of White residents. If Black and Latinx students have equitable access to programs in high-wage, high-demand fields across more colleges, and are drawn to and persist in those programs, their chances for entering those fields and becoming high-wage earners also increases.
The Impact of California’s Investment
An investment in ZTC and OER allows students to focus on their education, rather than what that education would cost. In 2020, U.S. PIRG surveyed more than 5,000 college students and found that 65% reported skipping buying a textbook because of cost. Yet 90% of students reported feeling concerned that not purchasing materials would negatively impact their grade. Recent surveys have shown that 25% of college students needed to work extra hours to afford course materials. Additionally, 19% said that they decided what course to take based on the cost of materials. Those costs forced one in nine students surveyed to skip meals. These stresses have only been exacerbated since the onset of the COVID-10 pandemic.
Read more about creating pathways for Bay Area students here.