CSU wants higher degree

Officials say Valley access to UC education doctorates is limited.

By Donald E. Coleman
The Fresno Bee
(Published April 9, 2001)

Saying the state is not meeting the needs of its large, diverse population, the California State University system is gearing up for a battle with the University of California and independent institutions to award doctoral degrees in education.

Fresno State President John D. Welty says accessibility to a doctorate program has been a problem in the central San Joaquin Valley, where the closest UC campus is about 185 miles away from Fresno in Davis. The proposed UC Merced, tentatively scheduled for a 2004 opening, would be about 70 miles from Fresno.

"Central Valley residents are put in a position where they don't pursue an Ed.D. education doctorate or they have to make huge sacrifices," Welty said. "It is important that we are provided this authority to meet the needs of those who seek the Ed.D."

Welty said numerous school superintendents and college presidents have indicated the need for more education doctorates. "We're going to need more as K-12 continues to grow."

For CSU to be successful, it would need legislative approval as well as the approval of the state Senate's Master Plan on Higher Education committee, a process that could take more than a year. Hearings before the committee are scheduled for this spring.

The 1960s Master Plan is the ammunition with which opponents of the proposal are expected to arm themselves. It places the authority to award doctoral degrees with the University of California as part of its role as the state's research institution. The mission of the CSU system is teaching; more than 60% of the state's teachers receive their training from CSU.

Joint program draws 63 students

For the past four decades, the two institutions have offered joint doctoral programs.

Welty said there 63 students are enrolled in a joint program operated by Fresno State and UC Davis that offers a doctorate in educational leadership and is designed specifically for Central Valley residents. The program has existed since 1992. Welty said plans for adding a program in criminal sciences and three other areas are under way.

UC President Richard C. Atkinson has sent letters to CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and state Sen. Dede Alpert, D-San Diego, chairwoman of the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education, promising to expand the joint programs. However, he expressed concern about CSU seeking legislative approval to offer doctoral degrees without collaborating with UC.

"If you take this step, it will remove any incentive for CSU campuses to move forward with the joint Ed.D. degree programs currently under way," Atkinson wrote in his letter to Reed.

Abby Lunardini, a spokeswoman for Atkinson's office, said: "We do feel it is an important issue with a need for more discussion. However, we defer on the numbers because the California Postsecondary Education Commission report says the current supply exceeds demand and even future demand."

Study calls for more research

The California Postsecondary Education Commission, or CPEC, was established by the Legislature and governor in 1974 to provide independent, nonpartisan policy analysis and recommendations about California education beyond high school.

The CPEC study concluded: "Production of education doctorates by institutions of higher education, if continued at current levels, is sufficient to provide the supply necessary to meet demand now and in the foreseeable future by public-school and community-college districts."

Carol Chandler of Selma, the commission's vice chairwoman, called the CPEC study "very subjective." She said although the commission accepted the study, there was "quite a heated debate" and it will be on a future agenda.

"It's almost a Catch-22," Chandler said. "Is there a demand, or is there no demand recorded if there are not enough doctorates to fill the positions? That's the dilemma. It was a supply-and-demand study, and there possibly may be a need for more study."

The study itself says more research is needed because it is estimated that only about 28% of each doctoral class in the state seeks or continues to work in the public schools.

"Additional research is needed to understand the competition for doctorates among educational systems -- especially since it has been well established that the K-12 public school districts have not shown an interest in competing financially to attract leaders who hold a doctorate," the study says.

CSU officials say the graduation numbers from the joint program have been less than impressive, with a total of 21 doctorates awarded from July 1998 to June 2000 -- an average of fewer than three per program per year.

"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," David S. Spence, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, said in a report to CSU trustees.

Proximity to students at issue

Spence said UC has a low commitment to education-doctorate programs and the nine campuses are not convenient to working students.

"We have a lot of campuses, and they're within commuting distance to over half the population of this state," Spence said of the CSU system, citing statistics that show 56% of Californians live within 10 miles of one of the 22 CSU campuses while 21% live within the same distance of a UC campus.

Atkinson, in his letter to Alpert, said: "I am committing the University to increasing public higher education's capacity for producing education doctorates by 50% over the next five years and 100% over the next 10 years. A major means for meeting this commitment will be new joint doctoral programs with the California State University."

CSU officials remain unimpressed.

"If we're here to meet the needs of our state institutions and the people and if we're concerned about costs, we must proceed to do something and do it quickly," said Murray L. Galinson, a CSU trustee.

"It's apparent to me the system is not now working. The number of Ed.D.'s being issued is minimal at most. We can't worry about stepping on toes.

"The only toes we're talking about 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 and they aren't doing it and they aren't doing it as well as we can."

Schools see minorities' needs

Spence said a CPEC study identifies a need for more individuals from under-represented groups to earn an education doctorate. The report also says there is a need to make doctoral programs more accessible to educators in rural areas and those who work full time.

That need is very high among people of color, Spence said. He cited statistics that put the state's Hispanic student population at more than half the total school enrollment by 2007 and that indicate two-thirds of all K-12 students will be of color.

"However, year after year, fewer than 30% of education doctorates are awarded to people of color," Spence said.

Welty agreed: "There is a need to provide more opportunity for people of color."

CSU trustee William D. Campbell said the proposal has more of a chance to succeed now than during any time in the last several decades.

"The last time it was presented it was in the middle 1980s," Campbell said. "The issue turned into a power struggle for resources. We have the leadership, with UC, that can work together. This thing has to prevail, and now is the time to do it."

The reporter can be reached at dcoleman@fresnobee.com or 441-6360.