Monday, April 16, 2001

The Stockton Record

CSU seeking doctoral degrees

By Victor Balta
Record Staff Writer

In a move that could help Central Valley residents seeking advanced college degrees but that has been frowned upon by some, California State University is pushing to offer its first doctoral program.

A bill making its way through the Legislature, Senate Bill 713, sponsored by Sen. Dede Alpert, D-Coronado, would create the education doctorate at CSU.

The bill goes to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

CSU officials argue that the change is needed because the University of California and private colleges are not meeting demand for such degrees.

Representatives for those institutions argue otherwise.

CSU can grant degrees only up to a master's but can offer doctorates through joint programs with UC or private universities under the state's 1960 education master plan.

SB713 would require the state to ensure that a sufficient number of "affordable, high-quality opportunities to obtain the doctoral degree in education are made available to interested candidates."

"The master plan for higher education has been lauded as one of the great education plans in the nation, but it's also 40 years old," CSU spokesman Ken Swisher said. "Sometimes things need to be altered."

CSU has Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who serves as a CSU trustee and a UC regent, on its side.

"We need to think of the needs of students first," Bustamante said last month at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting. "We need more doctorates in education, and the UC is not meeting that demand. CSU must become involved, and this regent would be accepting of that."

CSU representatives cite a report by the California Post-secondary Education Commission that identified a need for more individuals from underrepresented groups to earn the education doctorate, for more access to doctoral programs for educators in rural areas, and for more opportunities for educators who work full time.

CSU contends it could meet all those needs.

More than half of Californians live within 10 miles of a CSU campus, compared with 21 percent who live within 10 miles of a UC campus. And, Swisher said, CSU campuses specialize in flexible programs such as evening, weekend and distance courses suited to people who work full time.

CSU is also one of the most ethnically diverse institutions and has the nation's lowest fees for full-time students, Swisher said.

"There is a dearth of opportunities, particularly in this area of California," said Irma Guzman Wagner, dean of the College of Education at California State University, Stanislaus. "We're not geographically near a number of choices for universities. We are close to (University of the Pacific), and they have provided a lot of the doctorates in this area. They have a good program, but there needs to be a broader choice."

But representatives of UC and some private institutions, such as UOP, are not supportive.

UC officials say theirs is the only public California institution authorized to offer doctorates to keep costs down and keep such programs more centralized.

In letter to Alpert, Clark Kerr, UC president emeritus, said he opposes a master-plan amendment, because UC already is taking steps to provide more-inclusive doctoral programs.

"I am not arguing against any change in the master plan," wrote Kerr, one of the 1960 plan's architects. "I am suggesting, however, that it would be bad public policy to compromise an essential master-plan principle to solve a problem that can be addressed -- and indeed is being addressed -- without a change in state policy."

Dennis Brennan, UOP chairman of education administration, said the need for a CSU education doctorate hasn't been proved.

"Very seldom do you ever see a doctorate required" for administrative positions in education, Brennan said. "There are going to be a lot of startup costs involved with something like that. Given the current state of the economy and what's going on here in California, one may question whether that's a prudent use of public funds."

John Borba, an associate professor in educational administration at Stanislaus State, countered that such a program would give CSU additional revenue.

One way the issue is being addressed is through joint doctorate programs, in which UC works with a CSU campus to provide the coursework and research necessary, UC spokeswoman Abby Lundardini said. There are four joint programs, and another four are expected to start within the next year.

However, CSU officials say the joint programs aren't working, having produced 21 degrees from 1998 to 2000.

"They've had 40 years to make them work," Swisher said. "How much longer are you going to keep trying?"

Borba said joint programs haven't worked because it isn't clear who is in charge.

"Students would be best-served under those circumstances where they could deal directly with one institution rather than multiple institutions in terms of earning a doctorate," Borba said.

"I'm not against joint doctoral programs," Borba added. "If the new master plan does not allow CSU campuses to offer doctorate programs, then I certainly would support pursuing joint doctorate programs here at Stanislaus State."

* To reach reporter Victor Balta, phone 546-8272 or e-mail