Under the helm of our inimitable CEO, Joe Wallace, CVEP has persistently advocated for a fully utilized four-year college in our valley providing urgently needed local access to STEM degrees. Currently, the UC Riverside – Palm Desert and Cal State San Bernardino Palm Desert campuses are merely satellite campuses, underutilized and underrealized. This is especially unfortunate as our region has more need for affordable, accessible higher education than any other region in California.
In the United States, 34% of the population has attained a bachelor’s degree or other advanced degrees. California, overall, is slightly higher at 36% of the population. But in the Coachella Valley, only 27% of the population has reached such educational attainment.
Looking at the data more granularly just reinforces the argument for establishing a permanent four-year college here. A stark educational divide exists between the five wealthiest valley cities and the four poorest. The five wealthiest have attainment rates higher than both California and the US. But after La Quinta, at 38%, we see a large drop to 24% in Cathedral City, below the overall valley average of 27%.
And digging in even deeper, to the level of the Census Block Group, you see neighborhood by neighborhood disparity. One sees a lot of green and gray on this map, all areas below the national attainment level of 34%. The greens and the grays also represent areas of lower median age, larger family size, and less mobility. Many in the orange, highly educated block groups, are residents of higher median age, often out of the workforce. They aren’t the future of the valley.
For an individual, obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher is not automatically the road to future prosperity. There still exist great opportunities in the trades and entrepreneurship. But for a region overall, a highly educated population helps attract high-paying white-collar jobs, prevents “brain drain,” and helps diversify the economy.