CSU DOCTORATE PLAN HITS UC OPPOSITION
OFFICIALS CLAIM THE QUALITY OF THE GRADUATE DEGREE WOULD DECLINE IF ITS RIVAL GETS PERMISSION
Times staff writer
LONG BEACH A long-standing dispute in California public higher education has intensified since California State University announced plans to ask the Legislature for a right almost exclusively held by the University of California: the power to grant education doctorates.
As the institution that produces the majority of California's teachers, CSU argues it has the expertise to offer such degrees at a time when they're in demand.
UC isn't having any of it. It has sounded dire warnings about the quality of the degree plummeting.
"You (can) end up spreading the resources for graduate education too widely and as a result you can't build excellence," said Julius Zelmanowitz, vice provost for academic initiatives. "UC is the only state system where arguably every campus is excellent in research and graduate and professional training."
At the heart of the debate is the state's master plan for public higher education that clearly prescribed the two systems' roles: CSU churns out teachers, UC the research and doctorates. The division of labor hits a raw nerve with CSU, which in this debate sees UC as something of a favored son.
"We can't worry about stepping on toes and the only toes we're stepping on are UC's toes and private institutions, and they have no logical reason for saying we should not do this other than that they can do it," said CSU Trustee Murray Galinson at Wednesday's meeting in Long Beach.
As the state works to improve public schools in the face of a growing student population, CSU sees a demand for more leaders with education doctorates at both the K-12 and community-college level.
California currently grants education doctorates at less than two-thirds the national average. The state produced 457 doctorates in 1997-98, a third of which were from UC.
CSU isn't completely out of that doctoral picture. The state allows it to offer joint doctoral degrees with UC. But it's a slow and inefficient process, CSU argues. Of the 17 proposed joint doctoral programs that had permission to negotiate as of 1990, only six have been established.
"With four decades of experience, Herculean efforts, and the best of intentions, CSU and UC have been unable to make the joint doctoral program provision of the Master Plan work for education disciplines, even in areas where the need is widely acknowledged," CSU executive vice chancellor David Spence recently wrote.
In addition, CSU argues it can offer more affordable degrees. CSU doctorates would cost an estimated $5,000 compared to $15,000 at UC and $45,000 at private institutions, Spence said Wednesday. And with 23 campuses, as opposed to UC's nine, it's accessible to more people.
CSU would need to seek additional money from the state's general fund to finance the doctoral programs, but Spence did not have an exact figure.
Ultimately, the state legislature will decide the issue. Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado, already has sponsored a bill (SB713) to initiate discussion on CSU doctorates. Alpert serves on a legislative committee that's reviewing higher education roles laid out in the 1960 master plan.
Unique at the time, the plan clearly divided the labor among UC, CSU and the community colleges and became a national model.
States that don't restrict doctorates to one system have diluted their resources and hurt the quality of their degrees, UC officials contend.
"They have rival systems and they spend a lot of state funds fighting over who will do what," UC regent Velma Montoya said. "We don't want to go down that slippery slope."
CSU prepares nearly 60 percent of California teachers and half its K-12 administrators.
With all the talk about improving the quality and number of teachers, CSU should focus on teacher training, not on expanding its mission into the doctoral realm, Montoya said. A nationwide teacher shortage has forced the state to hire more than 40,000 teachers without proper credentials.
"It's pretty clear to the world that their main mission hasn't been accomplished," Montoya said.
Not everyone agrees that more education doctorates are in great demand.
A December report by the California Postsecondary Education Commission indicated the state has more than enough education doctorates at the K-12 level.
Little incentive exists for superintendents and principals to earn one, Zelmanowitz said, noting that the annual salary increase for degree holders is only about $1,000.
The UC system does see a need for more education doctorates at the community college level for deans, vice presidents and superintendents, but believes the need can be addressed with existing programs.
In a letter expressing his concern to the CSU chancellor, UC President Richard Atkinson offered to speed up negotiations on proposed joint education doctoral programs at the Riverside, Berkeley and Santa Barbara campuses.
The idea is that both systems bring something unique to the table: UC its research expertise and CSU its teachers working in the field.
If CSU does win authority to offer education doctorates, UC fears it could open the door to other CSU doctorate degrees. And that could siphon off resources that now flow to UC.
"It's not necessarily in the state's interest," Zelmanowitz said.
Carrie Sturrock covers higher education. Reach her at 925-943-8155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associated Press contributed to this report.