Why the Master Plan Matters

April
2001
Hoke Simpson, Vice President

California's Master Plan for Higher Education is being revised for the third time since its original adoption over forty years ago. Each revision reawakens the hope that the promise of the original Plan will finally be actualized: a tuition-free quality college education for every citizen of the state who might benefit from it. The community colleges are at the heart of that hope, but they have never been able fully to deliver. Elitist attitudes and hierarchical thinking have so far consigned the community colleges to third-class status in terms of their funding and support. Although the second review of the Plan, published in 1989, explicitly acknowledged this and recommended corrective action, its recommendations were eclipsed by the economic recession of the nineteen nineties. Unfortunately, the work done so far on the current revision suggests that the elitism of the past, now coupled with a tendency toward social engineering and an infatuation with corporate models of management, might once again serve to undermine the hopes of millions of Californians for a better life. On the other hand, the situation may not be hopeless, and there may be something that we can do.

Background
The original Master Plan was drafted in 1960 in anticipation of Tidal Wave I, a huge influx of post-World War II baby boomers. The plan was intended to control the development of the public colleges and universities in such a way as to make good on the promise of a free college education for every California citizen. To this end it was decided to expand the community colleges, assigning them the mission of vocational education and the first two years of undergraduate college preparation. No new University of California or California State University campus would be built until there were sufficient community colleges to handle the high school graduates in the region. Of these, it was determined that UC would admit the top one-eighth, while CSU took the top one-third. The community colleges would be the gateway to postsecondary education for all those others who did not yet qualify for entry into the four-year systems. This was the context for the remark of Clark Kerr, the president of the UC system and a principal architect of the Master Plan, that, "When I was guiding the development of the Master Plan for Higher Education in California in 1959 and 1960, I considered the vast expansion of the community colleges to be the first line of defense for the University of California as an institution of academic renown."1 Although it is doubtful that he intended it that way, this is certainly an elitist comment, and suggests that the master planners saw themselves as creating not a tripartite postsecondary system of equal partners, but an educational hierarchy. That this perspective has in fact prevailed is evident in the disparate funding of the three segments.2

In 1971 a joint committee of the Legislature was formed to review the Master Plan. Out of the committee's report, issued in 1973, came recommendations and subsequent implementing legislation that, among other things, created student diversity goals aimed at aligning the student community with the demographics of the state; created the California Postsecondary Education Commission to foster coordination among the three segments; and led to faculty and student representation on the governing boards of the segments. While the report essentially reaffirmed many of the tenets of the original Master Plan, it rejected the notion that a single master plan was adequate for current, rapidly changing conditions. The principal function to be performed by the California Postsecondary Education Commission was to be that of ongoing long range planning, a function which was subsequently not fully authorized or funded.

The 1960 Master Plan had diverted 50,000 students from UC and CSU to the community colleges when it set their quotas at one-eighth and one-third of high school graduates respectively. The 1973 report recognized that the community colleges had never been compensated for taking on these additional enrollments, and recommended that their percentage of state funding be raised to 45%. (As these were the days prior to the passage of Proposition 13, the community colleges derived the majority of their funding from local property taxes.) The committee's analysis of the original Master Plan revealed, it said, a number of implicit assumptions, among them the view that "the `best' students should have the greatest range of educational options and should receive the `best' education (in terms of dollars spent per student and prestige of the institution)."3 The committee was critical of this assumption, and went on to state, "In the past, high status has too readily and simply been accorded the institutions which admitted only the `best qualified' learners. Perhaps in the future, the quality of education will be measured instead in terms of `value added.' This would emphasize the process of education and take into account what happens to the student between entrance and graduation."4 Clearly, such a "value added" approach would place the community colleges at the qualitative front of the postsecondary pack. Unfortunately, this conclusion was not to be explicitly drawn for another fifteen years, and has yet to make its way into fiscal policy.

Getting It Right
In the 1980s, both a citizen's commission and a joint committee of the Legislature were established to undertake a review of the Master Plan. The commission issued two reports: the first, issued in 1986 and focused exclusively on the community colleges, was titled "The Challenge of Change: A Reassessment of the California Community College." This report subsequently formed the basis of much of AB 1725. The second report covered all three segments and was advisory to the work of the legislative joint committee.

The Joint Committee for the Review of the Master Plan was chaired by then Assembly member John Vasconcellos, and in 1989 published its report, "California Faces.California's Future: Education for Citizenship in a Multicultural Democracy." This document is extraordinary in the loftiness of its prose, in the clarity of its vision, and in its sensitivity to the educational aspirations of California's citizens, especially those who are disadvantaged and "at risk." At its heart is a focus on the remarkable racial and ethnic diversity of Californians and a commitment to achieving true equality of educational opportunity for all of the state's citizens.

Especially heartening for faculty is the report's clear grasp of, and respect for, what faculty do as professionals. This passage is typical: "Educational `quality' means that men and women have grown and prospered-intellectually, morally, spiritually. Every teacher who loves the craft of teaching knows that success is elusive, living in the delicate balance between achievements we can measure and those we cannot. And every good teacher is ceaselessly self-critical, constantly searching for ways of bringing learning more alive." This, in fact, is the opening paragraph of a section on "Assessment, Accountability, and Incentive Funding."5 In the current political climate, the passage is unusual, both in its recognition that teaching is a qualitative enterprise, and that good teaching is not a product of external incentives.

Most important for our current purpose is the report's recognition of the third-class status and concomitant under-funding accorded the community colleges. The following passages are long, but worth quoting in their entirety, both for their near-perfect statement of our situation as well as for their grasp of why the situation is wrong and how it should be resolved.

At present there is a perception of hierarchy between the missions of the three public systems. We regard this notion of hierarchy to be misleading and wrong. Each "segment" plays a vital role in California's future, and we must afford equal honor to each..

It should be axiomatic that our California Community Colleges are central to the success of California's entire educational effort, and to the future economic and social well-being of California. With hundreds of thousands of Californians enrolled in community college transfer courses, hundreds of thousands in vocational courses, and tens of thousands more in language and skill courses, the community colleges are an integral and indispensable part of California's economic and social infrastructure. Sadly, this truth is often honored more in the breach than by strong support. There is a bad irony here: the community colleges reach the students with the least privilege, and the state provides them the least resources with which to do their essential work.

The California Community Colleges are the gateway to equity, providing access to top quality lower-division transfer and vocational education. Their role as academic institutions of the highest quality makes them the centerpiece of California's elaborate system of higher education. And, if we honestly look at the broad needs of our state for a literate and trained population, for job skills retraining, English language instruction, remediation, and for open access to academic and vocational work, our California Community Colleges deserve to be fully equal partners in both status and support..6

The substance of equity is the guarantee of opportunity and the provision of programs which facilitate the success of a diverse body of students. That is, California's educational system is truly equitable only if it offers a fair and plausible chance to persons of promise wherever in the system they find themselves. Differences between the quality of the opportunities afforded persons in different institutions are minimized in an equitable system. This was what was envisaged in the original Master Plan, with the idea that California's Community Colleges would offer lower division instruction equal in quality to that offered by the "senior" systems.

This notion of equal chances afforded students in different segments is only real if there are adequate faculty and staff supports and facilities, programs and curricula throughout the entire system. We must acknowledge that the provision of these elements of quality education is now unequally distributed, that the three public systems offer very different levels of support for very different students. Put bluntly, California expends-per capita-the most money on those students who are the most privileged.

We might rationalize the differentials in functional terms if it were simply a question of the provision of research facilities for students in the research university. But the differences go far beyond such "functional" differentials. In the areas of student services and counseling, where the most needy students are in community colleges, the state has not provided funds at all equal to those spent in the other systems. In other student support services and academic support facilities (libraries, audiovisual aids, etc.), the community colleges lag far behind the senior systems. In 1984-85, the California Community Colleges received $262 per ADA "student" for student services, while the California State University and the University of California received, respectively, $755 and $982.7

The long-term effects of such topsy-turvy differentials in state support are necessarily bad for our state; they continue to widen, rather than narrow, the gap between persons who are advantaged and those who are not. California must reverse the spending gap in a variety of areas if we are to be serious about providing opportunity for the widest number of our students. The Master Plan Commission acknowledged the importance of providing equally for the different systems when it called for studies which would recommend ways to eliminate differences in funding formulas that are not justified by differences in role and mission, and maintain an equitable allocation of state support between the three segments. (MPC Rec. #27, p. 42.)

The implications of this recommendation are profound, for it means that the state must justify differentials on the basis of the instructional mission of the segments. And on this basis, adequately meeting the need among students for counseling and tutoring, transfer information and career advice, would entail making equitable the current system in which the richer institutions are systematically provided the most resources. The issue is, obviously, not resolved by taking needed resources from the universities, but through increasing the funding of community college programs to equitable levels.

Equity begins, then, with the state's commitment to make opportunity a reality, by insuring the provision of adequate resources for all three systems of public education.8

This is followed by a recommendation from the Joint Committee that CPEC implement a study to "analyze the effect of the differential provision of educational resources between the three systems of higher education, paying particular attention to the effect of such differentials on the opportunities afforded students for access, achievement, and success."9

Many of the Joint Committee's recommendations were implemented through subsequent legislation; it is clear that their call for the equitable provision of adequate fiscal resources was not.

Getting It W Wrong rong
As noted earlier, the vision of the remarkable document just cited was eclipsed by the economic recession of the early nineteen nineties. It has been replaced by an insistence that institutions of higher education "do more with less," by calls for greater "accountability," by a demand for greater "efficiency" and "productivity," and by the view that our institutions need to "reinvent" themselves using a corporate model. The visionaries have been replaced by the bean counters.

This attitude has surfaced in a series of documents published since the early nineties. An early example is a draft report from the Assembly Committee on Higher Education entitled, "Master Plan for Higher Education in Focus."10 The consultant who prepared the report was Christopher Cabaldon, who is currently a Vice Chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

Cabaldon says that his intent is to focus on the Master Plan in the light of the new context of fiscal austerity. "The present state of access and quality," Cabaldon writes, "has drifted so far from the Master Plan's objectives and values that California could hardly have done greater harm had it set out to do so."11 However, the "providers" of education are part of the problem, not the solution, because, for them, "quality is defined in terms of specific, predetermined, immutable inputs (e.g. funding, salaries, library volumes, and faculty/student ratios) and perceived prestige rather than in defined outcomes for students and the broader society."12 Notice the shift from the "California Faces" document, which began with the premise that assessment and accountability would have to be measured qualitatively as well as quantitatively. In Cabaldon's brave new world, only counting counts. And how foolish of faculty to suppose that a quality education depends in any measure on adequate salaries, libraries, and-God forbid!-a hard-earned reputation for excellence.

The solution, says Cabaldon, is a "new covenant" in which "our colleges and universities.share in the cost containment and bureaucratic downsizing that most large corporations began implementing in the late 1980's..We must reinvent our higher education system.and the people of California [must] reinvest the will and the funding for a new higher education system."13

This is astounding logic: the funding system is broken, so we must fix the educational system. Is the educational system broken? No one has said that it is, yet this is the underlying premise of Cabaldon's work. The unspoken-and patently mistaken-assumption is that we are not getting the funds because we're not doing a good job. When money is tight, education is an easy target. Perhaps this is a reflection of our cultural ambivalence toward intellectual work. Regardless, there is no evidence to support Cabaldon's implicit notion that funding was a direct reflection of educational quality.

Cabaldon maintains that "California higher education.must do better with less."14 Unconcerned with the inequitable distribution of resources, he sees this instead as the occasion for heightened efficiency and productivity. "The state," he writes, "can provide lower division education to 150 students at community colleges for the same investment required to educate 100 students at one of the public universities,"15 so students should be systematically "redirected" from UC and CSU to the CCs. Forget questions of equity and the promise of equal quality in all the segments. Cabaldon is willing to trade quality for efficiency and productivity at every turn. We should consider, he says, "a more focused baccalaureate degree using a threeyear, rather than a four-year framework."16 And further, "While we do not support a wholesale shift of courses to lecture format with several hundred students in each class, we urge CSU and the community colleges to include in their multiyear capital outlay plans the construction of large lecture halls."17

Whereas the earlier Master Plan review exhibits compassion for those students struggling to get an education in the face of Herculean obstacles, and who are frequently forced to drop out of their classes, the Cabaldon document exhibits only impatience. ".[T]he high attrition rate doubles the cost of producing [!] each college graduate, limiting the resources available to provide educational opportunity to more [deserving] Californians."18

This insensitivity to the plight of millions of community college students and the public mission of the community colleges is compounded in a more recent report by the Little Hoover Commission, "Open Doors and Open Minds: Improving Access and Quality in California's Community Colleges," published in April, 2000. The Hoover Commission's report combines a passion for productivity with a strident elitism. For students who drop out and re-enter, or who take courses outside of their "educational plans," the Hoover Commission recommends penalizing them with higher fees.19 It recommends restructuring community college curricula around the specific skill sets needed by local industries, giving no attention to whether this would actually benefit students, but focusing only on the obvious benefits to industry, and hence to the state's economy.20 The Commission holds up National University and a similar private school in Colorado as models the community colleges would do well to emulate when structuring their calendars and their course offerings.21 Finally, the Commission notes that "Community college representatives frequently criticize the disparity in per-student funding between the community colleges, UC and CSU," and it provides a table showing the disparity.22 The Commission remains silent on the unequal distribution of resources, however, and criticizes the funding system on the ground that it is not tied to performance outcomes and thus provides no financial incentives for the community colleges to provide a quality product.

It is clear that the Little Hoover Commission does not see community college students as deserving of the same level of opportunity as their four-year counterparts, but rather as potential members of a non-mobile workforce, serving the entry-level needs of local industry, and facing a future that has been systematically diminished by a delimited education. Whereas the "California Faces" document emphasized the key role of education in realizing the full human potential of every student, the Little Hoover Commission focuses on using community college students to realize the economic potential of local industries. This is a significant difference of perspective.

The Little Hoover report appears to have had a significant impact on the current efforts of the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University. Senator Dede Alpert is chair of the Joint Committee, and a list of questions sent from the Joint Committee over Senator Alpert's signature, requesting input from the Academic Senate and other community college faculty organizations, was strongly redolent of the Hoover Commission's criticisms of the community colleges. Furthermore, the work to date of the Joint Committee staff has exhibited the same bean-counting, cookie-cutter, punitive approach to dealing with education as found in the Cabaldon and Hoover Commission documents. In its first publication, "Framework to Develop a Master Plan for Education," the Committee staff calls for "a more cohesive system of education," which promises an "efficient and responsive delivery" of educational services, and that will "allow clear lines of accountability." "The state," they say, "must define the performance levels that comprise a high quality education," and ".must develop assessments that measure students' knowledge, pursuant to standards. Assessments must be consolidated," and "Institutions, educators, and students must be held accountable for successful learning. Incentives should be provided for improvement in student learning, and sanctions should be imposed when learning does not occur."23

How different this is from the 1989 Master Plan review, "California Faces.", which tells us that "Educational `quality' means that men and women have grown and prospered-intellectually, morally, spiritually."24 How different also, from the "overarching ideal" expressed in the Academic Senate paper, "The Future of the Community College: A Faculty Perspective," that "community colleges should offer the sort of instruction that is maximally productive of humane values and which contributes toward students becoming informed, compassionate and productive members of their communities. The faculty believe," the Senate paper goes on to say, ".that democracy requires an educated citizenry, literate people who are capable of making informed choices, and that the development of such citizens should be the primary task of a `democratic' educational system."25 The Senate paper concludes that education "is essentially a process in which human beings are created," or "in which their potential as human beings is actualized." "The true quality of the educational experience," then, ".is maximized when what is learned is how to be more fully human."26

Recently, in an e-mail to prospective participants in a Joint Committee hearing on educational quality, Joint Committee staff framed the upcoming discussion in a document titled "Notes on Defining a High Quality Education for All Students." There, the staff suggests that a quality education will be defined as "an essential `foundational set of knowledge and skills' that all learners should master." Determining that these "knowledge and skills sets" have been mastered will of course, be the objective of the "consolidated assessments," proposed in the Committee's "Framework" document, and assuring that they are efficiently and responsively delivered will be the goal of appropriate "incentives" and "sanctions." In sum, it seems not too strong to say that the Joint Committee staff seems somewhat obsessed with the oxymoronic task of defining `quality' quantitatively.

One troubling feature of the Joint Committee's work so far is that staffers seem already to have made up their minds about the final goals that the Master Plan should adopt. While they are only now beginning to hold hearings, and are forming "citizens' workgroups" to examine the areas of concern defined in the "Framework," it appears that the only point of these activities will be to work out the details of implementing the Joint Committee staff's foregone conclusions. The e-mailed "Notes on Defining a High Quality Education for All Students" is an example: rather than an invitation to an open discussion of the meaning of `educational quality,' this document is designed to coerce the discussion into preordained channels, and to preempt voices, such as that of the Academic Senate, which might seek to define `quality' qualitatively. Strong direction from the legislators on the Joint Committee is needed if voices beyond those of the staff are genuinely to be heard. One hopes the legislators are up to the task.

Finally, perhaps the most disturbing feature of the Little Hoover Commission report was its willingness to walk right up to the edge of autocratic social engineering bent on reducing students' options in order to channel them into occupational paths that serve the interests of industry and "the State." Unhappily, a similar tendency is evident in the work of the Joint Committee, or of its staff. The truncated, lockstep vision of education that emerges in the "Framework," coupled with the recommendation that business and industry leaders be invited to help set the research agendas of the public colleges and universities in order to achieve "state priorities,"27 demonstrates a proclivity to view the public system of education, and those it educates, as serving industry and the State. Absent is any recognition that education serves a free society to the degree that it expands human options and facilitates a potential for individuals to grow.

What We Can Do
The Academic Senate does not believe that the community college system needs to be "reengineered" to be efficient, productive, and to attain high standards. Rather, it is clear that there has never been a more efficient or productive segment of education than ours, and that the quality of instruction and support offered by California community college faculty is unparalleled. Of course we always strive toward improvement; but monolithic assessment instruments and fiscal incentives and sanctions are not what we require. The only thing lacking in the California community colleges that could empower them to meet the hopes and expectations of the Legislature and of California's citizens is funding. We certainly have the will and the skill to become the sorts of institutions that do not allow students to fail. What we lack are adequate financial resources.

Yet the current efforts to create a new Master Plan are focused on "doing more with less." Christopher Cabaldon is still out there telling the Joint Committee that you can educate 150 students at the community colleges for what it takes to educate 100 students at the four-year schools-a boast that seems designed to lock the community colleges into their state of chronic
underfunding, in the name of efficiency.

At the 2000 Fall Plenary Session, the Academic Senate adopted a resolution calling on the Joint Committee to acknowledge the community colleges as equal partners in California's system of postsecondary education, and recommending that we be funded at a level at least equal to that of the other postsecondary segments (Resolution 6.08F00). At the 2001 Spring Plenary Session, the Executive Committee will sponsor a resolution reaffirming the call for equitable funding and urging the Joint Committee to adopt the 1989 review as a model in its own efforts.

In the meantime, local senates are encouraged to pass their own resolutions urging the Joint Committee in this direction. Use your resolutions to let the legislators know both what you are doing at your college to ensure student success, and what more you could do if full funding were available. Once it has been passed by your senate, e-mail a copy of your resolution to the Senate Office (asccc [at] ix.netcom.com) and President Collins will present it to the Joint Committee. If you need help drafting a resolution, contact your representative on the Relations with Local Senates Committee (email addressses are available on the senate's website).

The Master Plan of 1960 has shaped the destiny of the community colleges in this state for the past forty years. With the current effort, we have the opportunity to move beyond our third-class fiscal status into full partnership with the other postsecondary segments. What is perfectly clear, however, is that this will not happen without concerted effort on our part, and it might not happen even then. But we would be derelict were we not to try. Let your legislators hear from your senate.

1 Clark Kerr, "Higher Education: Paradise Lost?" Higher Education 7 (Aug. 1978), 267.

2 In 1999, the funding per FTES was approximately: Community Colleges $4,000; California State University $10,000; and University of California $15,000.

3 "Report of the Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education." September, 1973, p. 34.

4 Ibid., p. 35.

5 Joint Committee for the Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education, "California Faces.California's Future: Education for Citizenship in a Multicultural Democracy." 1989, p. 124.

6 Ibid., p. 9.

7 Notice that the ratios of the allocations for student services are almost identical to those cited earlier for 1999 funding per FTES to each of the three segments. [HS]

8 Joint Committee for the Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education, op. cit., pp. 62-63.

9 Ibid., p. 63.

10 Assembly Committee on Higher Education, "Master Plan for Higher Education in Focus." April, 1993.

11 Ibid., p. 3.

12 Ibid., p. 3.

13 Ibid., p. 5.

14 Ibid., p. 34.

15 Ibid., p. 6.

16 Ibid., p. 17.

17 Ibid., p.32.

18 Ibid., p. 13.

19 Little Hoover Commission, "Open Doors and Open Minds: Improving Access and Quality in California's Community Colleges. March, 2000, pp. 49-51, 57, 67.

20 Ibid., pp. xii-xiv, 1, 54-58, 76.

21 Ibid., p.46. Whatever the reality may be, there is no doubt that NU and similar schools, such as the University of Phoenix, are regarded in "legitimate" academic circles as offering degrees for sale. It is inconceivable that the Little Hoover Commission would make a similar recommendation to the University of California

22 Ibid., p. 61.

23 The Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University, "Framework to Develop a Master Plan for Education." August, 2000, pp. 3-5.

24 Joint Committee for the Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education, op. cit., p. 124.

25 The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, "The Future of the Community College: A Faculty Perspective." Adopted Fall, 1998, p. 5.

26 Ibid., p. 17.

27 The Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for Education-Kindergarten through University, "Framework to Develop a Master Plan for Education." August, 2000, p. 31.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.