California’s 63-year-old higher education plan could use a reality check

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DAN WALTERS | Contributed

During the 1950s and 1960s, California’s population boomed, prompting political leaders to respond with ambitious plans for public services.

New freeways, schools, dams, and a master plan for higher education were envisioned. However, after six decades, California’s population has nearly tripled but is now stalling at just under 40 million and experiencing a slow decline.

Many planned freeways were never built, public school enrollment is declining, and the Master Plan for Higher Education hasn’t achieved its goals. The state’s three collegiate systems – University of California, California State University, and community colleges – have become more competitive than cooperative, leading to friction over academic turf and funding.

Students’ demands have exceeded supply and budgetary constraints, blurring the lines between the systems. Community colleges have started offering limited bachelor’s degrees, leading to conflict with state universities that want to award doctorates.

Transferring credits between levels has been challenging, with community college graduates struggling to gain admission to four-year schools despite the master plan’s promises. Current legislative measures, like Assembly Bill 656 granting CSU authority to award doctorates, highlight ongoing conflicts over degree authority.

Additionally, Assembly Bill 1749 faces opposition from CSU as it aims to make transfers between colleges easier. These issues demonstrate that the Master Plan for Higher Education is outdated and in need of modernization to address 21st-century realities rather than being based on 1960s theories.

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