You would think that if California came out fourth in the nation in a technology and science index that would be a good thing. Since California ranks higher than 46 other states it isn’t bad, but considering the last time this index was released California ranked second there is reason for concern.

High Tech and California should go together like bread and butter. However, according to the Milken Institute’s 2008 State Technology and Science Index California fell further behind number one ranked Massachusetts since the last study was released four years ago.

The big reason for the hit — California’s drop in one category labeled Human Capital Investment Composite Index. The Milken study could have done a better job identifying its measurable categories in easily understood English. However, the Human Capital Index has to do with the number of graduate students, PhDs and acquiring Research and Development opportunities, amongst a series of twenty-one indicators.

California now ranks 13th in this Human Capital category, falling six places since the 2004 study and nine places since the initial Milken Technology and Science Index was published in 2002.

So what’s California’s problem according to the Milken demographers? It seems a smaller percentage of Californians are getting college degrees and fewer foreign graduate students are enrolling in California universities to name two.

California ranks 16th in the nation in the percentage of its population age 25 and older holding bachelor’s degrees. The decline in foreign students is in the science and math fields. California graduates fewer scientists and engineers than it has in the past and does not score as well as leading states in verbal SAT scores.

The study reports the importance of knowledge skills for the new economy and it is there where the study says California takes its lumps. In the other four categories of Research and Development Inputs, Risk Capital Entrepreneurial Infrastructure, Technology and Science Work Force, and Technology Concentration and Dynamism (I warned you about the category titles) California is in the top ten, especially entrepreneurial risk taking in which the state is number one.

As with most of the policy discussions in California, this study returns to the topic of education.

Take a look at the full study on the states here and the special California study here.