Are colleges getting too full? It seems there is a higher education capacity crisis which creates inequities and also threatens the economy. 

You’ll want to read more find out the scope of the problem as well as the three best solutions when the college you want waitlists you or is too full for you to attend right now.

According to the College Futures Foundation, by 2030 about 144,000 college-ready students are being turned away each year from California’s four year colleges and universities.

This is double the number being kept away now according to the report.

When every student who is prepared for college cannot get in, the income, racial and geographic gaps that already exist will widen and create more inequities.

are colleges getting too full

“These capacity shortfalls are simply unacceptable,” said Monica Lozano, President and CEO of College Futures Foundation.

“By failing to address this issue, California is squandering hard-won gains that have ensured more of our students are prepared for, qualified for, and interested in pursuing a college education.”

New Report on Private California Colleges and Universities

The report, Making Room for Success: Addressing Capacity Shortfalls at California’s Universities, was commissioned via an analysis by College Futures and it was conducted by McKinsey & Company, who examined the California Community Colleges, the UC, the CSU, and private California colleges and universities.

“More California students than ever before are graduating from high school ready for college, but tens of thousands are being turned away,” said Lozano. So we ask again, are colleges getting too full and what will students do if they can’t get in. They need solutions now.

“At the same time, our state is projected to have a shortfall of 1.1 million workers with a bachelor’s degree by 2030. The higher education capacity crisis we are facing is an enormously important economic issue for our state.”

” This overcapacity crisis is not limited to California,” says Pat Wyman, CEO of

“Numerous reports, including those from individual colleges themselves, i.e. Harvard, Purdue and more, show that overcrowing is a serious issue and needs alternative solutions as soon as possible”, continued Wyman.

Another exmaple of overcrowding shows up when looking at the number of jobs that are unfilled.

One example of this challenge: Health care, the state’s largest industry, will continue to lead job growth, with an increase in jobs of more than 31 percent projected through 2030. In 2017, the state needed 240,000 more registered nurses than were available, but nursing programs are currently impacted across the UC and CSU systems.

The capacity crisis disproportionately impacts students from groups that are underrepresented in college, including students from low-income families and communities of color.

Many students already face formidable socioeconomic barriers to college and cannot afford the additional burdens of moving to educational opportunities outside their region or state.

The report details capacity gaps and labor shortages in three regions with large proportions of low-income families and communities of color: the Central Valley, Inland Empire, and Los Angeles. By 2030:

  • The Central Valley will face an annual capacity gap of 14,000 seats for four-year degrees—turning away nearly half of the qualified students seeking those degrees in the region—while at the same time facing a labor market gap of 33,000 workers holding bachelor’s degrees.
  • The Inland Empire will face an annual capacity gap of 20,000 seats for four-year degrees—turning away more than half of the qualified students seeking those degrees in the region—while at the same time facing a labor market gap of 61,000 workers holding bachelor’s degrees.
  • Los Angeles will face an annual capacity gap of 16,000 seats for four-year degrees–turning away 16 percent of its eligible student population—even as it faces one of the state’s largest labor needs, 261,000 additional workers with bachelor’s degrees.

“Meeting the projected shortage of skilled workers depends on increasing capacity at four-year colleges and dramatically raising the rates of college success for students from low-income families and communities of color,” said Lozano.

are colleges too full

“Imagine the young students today who will work hard to get the grades and meet the eligibility criteria, only to find out that our higher education system doesn’t have capacity for their dreams of a four-year degree. That’s the reality we are facing if we fail to address this crisis.”

While California Community Colleges and private two-year schools have varying degrees of available capacity, relying on them will not make up for the shortfall at the universities.

Even if students qualified for the CSU or UC who are turned away are sent to the estimated 44,000 extra seats available at two-year institutions, that would still leave up to 100,000 students without a spot in the higher education system.

Future Jobs Require Twice as Many Bachelor’s Degress Compared to Associate Degrees

Estimates of future job openings in California suggest that nearly twice as many bachelor’s degrees will be required relative to associate degrees (or those with some college) by 2030 as the economy continues to demand more technical, creative, and critical thinking skills.

are colleges too full

Graduate programs are also struggling with capacity issues.

By 2030, space in advanced degree programs, required for high-demand jobs in sectors such as health care and technology, will have to turn away about 21,000 qualified applicants per year, even as the state faces an annual shortfall of 168,000 workers with graduate degrees.

To address California’s higher education capacity crisis, the report recommends the following key solutions:

  • IMPROVED STUDENT EXPERIENCE: Expand student success initiatives to guide students to their goals and help them complete their degrees more efficiently;
  • CREATIVE USE OF SPACE: Leverage physical space more creatively and effectively across all parts of our education system, including sharing facilities and offering more flexible class schedules; and
  • REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS: Create regional partnerships to align educational offerings with labor needs and lead or accelerate efforts on the previous two solutions.

With the release of the report, College Futures Foundation hopes to inform potential solutions that reimagine higher education in California for the 21st century economy.

“State leaders who care about educational opportunity, jobs, and our economy need to address the higher education capacity crisis,” said Lozano. “We can and must tackle these challenges to better serve our students and build a stronger future for California.”

Three Best Ways to Get Your College Degree When Colleges Are Too Full  

“The question, are colleges getting too full, needs to be answered and resolved quickly, in order to maximize opportunities for all students,” says Pat Wyman, CEO of

Wyman proposes these three solutions when colleges either waitlist you or can’t accept you right now because they are over capactiy:

  1. Explore other options including online education through various univerisities or upskill courses at places such as Coursera and Udemy
  2. Enroll in a two year program and request transfer to the college or university your prefer
  3. Take the virtual option path. Obtain a complete online degree that is accredited and accepted by employers. Instead of physically attending college. Most universities today offer this type of degree. You can do an internet search for the university you want and also search sites which have degree choice options and then show you the universities which offer those degrees online.

To ensure you are getting the very best education, make sure the college or university you choose is accredited so your degree is meaningful to future employers. You can also contact future employers and ask whether they accept online degrees and if so, through which universities.

While you may lose some networking advantages when you attend college online, the rewards of your degree may outweigh the disadvantages.

Plus, you can always spend time at your university’s career center and attend career fairs on campus to network with future employers.

Make sure you spend as much private time as possible in virtual office hours with your professors, as they will often provide letters of recommendation for you and they may also have a large network of connections to introduce you to.

are colleges getting too full

About College Futures Foundation:

At College Futures Foundation, we believe there is nothing more transformative for individuals, our economy, and our society than educational opportunity, and that the pathway to a college degree should be clear and open to the diverse students of California.

Right now, that is not the case. Not all hardworking young people are getting a fair shot at a better life. The vast majority of our state’s K–12 students are people of color and from low-income households, yet when it comes to graduates from our public universities, these students are in the minority. At every step, they face roadblocks. We are working to change that.

College Futures Foundation partners with organizations and leaders across the state to catalyze systemic change, increase bachelor’s degree completion, and close equity gaps so that this vision of a seamless, student-centered educational path to opportunity becomes a reality—and one that’s available to every student, regardless of zip code, skin color, or income.

About Pat Wyman

Pat Wyman is the CEO of and the author of more than 15 books. She is the creator of the Learning Styles Inventory on the site and her passion is helping learners succeed. The site provides powerful mind tools to help make you a learning genius.

Visit College Futures here

More on Pat Wyman here.

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