California doesn't tinker with its master plan for higher education lightly -- and representatives of the state's various college constituencies are quick to cite the plan's sanctity when policy changes are proposed that they don't like.
But California's desperate need for administrators in its bursting-at-the-seams K-12 system has persuaded officials of the state's various college systems, along with key legislators, to craft an agreement to allow the California State University system, for the first time, to offer its own doctorates.
Under the master plan, which sets overall direction for California's sprawling system of higher education, only the University of California is empowered to award independent doctoral degrees (Cal State offers a few degrees jointly with UC and private colleges), and UC officials have argued that it should stay that way. But as demand in certain fields has grown, so has sentiment that the university cannot meet all of it, and that the Cal State system should be able to grant doctorates in some professional and clinical disciplines, such as education and audiology.
Four years ago, when the issue first gained currency in the Legislature, the two university systems struck a deal to offer a joint doctoral degree in education. But Cal State officials have been frustrated by the slow pace at which those programs have taken shape; Colleen Bentley-Adler, a spokeswoman for the system, said that just 86 students are enrolled in the four programs that have been established so far.
So Cal State officials began a new push this year for the right to award doctorates by itself. That culminated in the introduction, and eventual passage, of a bill in the State Senate that would allow Cal State to award doctoral degrees in "selected," though unspecified, "professional fields."
Officials of the University of California opposed the measure, citing concerns about altering the master plan outside the normal once-a-decade review process and about the broad leeway it would give Cal State to move into multiple fields. As a hearing scheduled for Tuesday approached in the State Assembly's Higher Education Committee, lawmakers urged the two university systems to cooperate.
"UC and CSU both heard throughout the process that legislators felt it would be in the best interests of the state for the two institutions to come to an agreement," said Brad Hayward, a spokesman for the University of California.
On Tuesday, they did, jointly announcing that they had struck a compromise in which Cal State will, for the first time, have the authority to independently award an Ed.D. to train working professionals to become administrators in the state's elementary and secondary schools and at community colleges, both of which face significant shortages due to retirements and enrollment growth. Under the arrangement, the UC system would continue to offer its own education Ph.D. and Ed.D.
The compromise measure also restricts Cal State to offering just the Ed.D., though university officials say they will continue to push to offer doctorates in audiology, at least jointly with other institutions. Cal State says it plans to have its educational administration doctorate up and running by 2007, assuming the compromise legislation gains final backing from the Legislature and the governor. That approval is expected.