The California Master Plan
for Higher Education in Perspective
The Master Plan was adopted in 1960, at a time not unlike our own. Baby boomers
were reaching college age and vast increases in college enrollment were projected
for the years 1960-1975. The Master Plan was born of the tremendous pressures
to find a way to educate unprecedented numbers of students, and it succeeded
beyond all expectations. The Master Plan did much more than that, however. It
also helped create the largest and most distinguished system of public higher
education in the nation.
There are two major dimensions to this accomplishment:
- The Master Plan transformed a collection of uncoordinated and competing
colleges and universities into a coherent system. It achieved this by assigning
each public segment--the University of California, the California State University,
and the Community Colleges--its own distinctive mission and pool of students.
The genius of the Master Plan was that it established a broad framework for
higher education that encourages each of the three public segments to concentrate
on creating its own distinctive kind of excellence within its own particular
set of responsibilities. And from the very beginning the framers of the Master
Plan acknowledged the vital role of the independent colleges and universities,
envisioning higher education in California as a single continuum of educational
opportunity, from small private colleges to large public universities.
- The Master Plan created, for the first time anywhere, a system that combined
exceptional quality with broad access for students. This characteristic has
made California the envy and exemplar of higher education not only in other
states but in nations around the world. A team of international visitors from
the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, here to review
higher education in 1988, noted that California had succeeded in encouraging
"constructive competition and cooperation" among its colleges and universities
and praised the "complex of creativity" that characterizes California's system
of higher education and makes it a model for other nations.
Among the other indicators of the Master Plan's success:
- A much higher proportion of California's population, from every ethnic group
and by gender, is in college now than was the case in 1960. Enrollments in
public higher education have increased ten-fold (from 179,000 to 1.8 million
FTE) since 1960, while the state's population has not even tripled
(15.3 to 37.4 million).
- The University of California, the California State University, and the Community
Colleges have all grown enormously since 1960 in response to steadily increasing
demand for education. UC added four new campuses,
the CSU added eight, and the Community Colleges
added 46 (from 63 to 109) new colleges.
- Despite unprecedented growth, the quality of California's public universities
and colleges is considered exemplary.
Today, as California faces another large wave of students entering higher education,
we believe the Master Plan is as wise and sound a guide as it was nearly four
decades ago. In addition to preserving the Master Plan's differentiation of
functions and admissions pools, we believe it would be a mistake to waver from
the commitment to universal access to higher education that Californians associate
with the Master Plan. That is, since 1960, even under severe budgetary constraints,
UC and CSU have continued to admit and offer a place to every California high
school student who is eligible, and the Community Colleges have offered places
to all high school graduates and adults who wish to attend.
Educational Relations Department
UC Office of the President, Jan 2007
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