What’s the best university in the state? Stanford? UC Berkeley? By one measure – the earning potential of their alums – the top school in California – and indeed the nation – is Harvey Mudd College in Claremont.

Payscale puts out rankings that evaluates colleges and universities on the financial return of attending the school considering tuition and the median lifetime earnings for alums. Harvey Mudd came out tops in the survey nationally. Caltech was #2. Stanford was 10th.

What explains this? Harvey Mudd produces a ton of engineers and scientists. So does Caltech. And those are the sorts of people in high demand.

This lesson is reinforced by the rest of the list. Only one UC, Berkeley at #34, is ranked higher than the two Cal Poly schools.

The state clearly needs to produce more engineers, scientists, technologists and others – and not just because of the good job and salaries available for graduates. California—and indeed the world – needs more people who know this stuff, so we have a more productive, innovative future.

Instead of obsessing about Cal State president salaries and tuition increases, the state ought to be focusing on building capacity and better programs in these areas.

One way to do this has been suggested John Aubrey Douglass of the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley: Establish a separate system of “polytechnic” universities (essentially more of what we already have with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Pomona) so the state produces more graduates with expertise in science, technology, engineering and math.

Yes, this will cost money, and yes, doing things on revenues requires supermajorities in California. But one party has legislative supermajorities. And that party says it’s focused on jobs and education.