Admit, Persist, Graduate: Do They Add Up?

BY HARRY HELLENBRAND

Harry Hellenbrand, who retired not long ago from his long-time position as provost at California State University (CSU), Northridge, remains one of the most respected and intelligent academic administrators in the CSU, who was revered — dare I say, even loved — by his faculty.  Harry is also one of the most astute observers of the politics and economics of higher education in California and of the policy choices made — and not made — by the CSU and state leaders.  The paper below, which addresses proposals to increase graduation rates in the CSU, has been circulating among CSU faculty members, administrators and staff — and hopefully some trustees and politicians.  The paper is long and perhaps of interest mainly to policy wonks in California and those who might learn from California, but its conclusion is relatively simple: the CSU, Harry argues, is “set up to fail, even if we succeed in increasing the graduation rate to the targets. We still will fall short of meeting the swelling demand from high school graduates, as well as the needs of employers.”  I suspect this conclusion could also be demonstrated for many other public institutions under political pressure to increase graduation rates, serve more students, and do so “on the cheap.”  Harry offers a series of specific recommendations, but acknowledges that absent a renewed commitment to the level of state investment promised by California’s 1960s Master Plan for Higher Education, these will be inadequate.  The extent to which that commitment has been abandoned, and the inequities this creates, have been highlighted in the California Faculty Association’s recent study, “Equity, Interrupted.”  Readers of this blog, however, will soon learn of a bold initiative from California faculty members that proposes an affordable and realistic means of renewing that commitment.  For now, however, Harry’s critique is worth a read.  Unfortunately, I was not able to reproduce most of the tables, charts, and illustrations that accompany the piece, although I have retained references to them.  Should anyone wish a copy of the paper that includes these, please contact me.  —  Hank Reichman

Pundits, politicians, and planners agree that the California State University (CSU) is not doing enough for undergraduates. However, they cannot seem to agree on enough of what? The California Department of Education is driving up the high school graduation rate, as well as the percent of students who meet A-G eligibility  [subject admission requirements] for the CSU and the University of California (UC). Neither system is preparing to meet such growth, however. Indeed, they are growing reluctantly. They see that there is little political will in the state to raise revenues for higher education.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Legislative Analyst (LAO) is trying to slow down enrollment in the UC and CSU. It wants both systems to admit from the top one-third of public high-school graduates; that is far different from enrolling freshmen up to that limit.

Apparently, everyone wants the CSU to increase its graduation rates. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) dares to say that the state must make significant investments to expand admissions and graduation. At current rates of growth, the state will fall over 1,000,000 BA degrees short of employers’ needs by 2030. So far, the policy makers in Sacramento have not warmed to the proposal to invest; however, they want the yield in graduates.

As a result, the CSU has committed to increasing its six-year graduation rate for full-time freshmen from 57% to 70% and to closing its ethnic/racial achievement gaps by 2025. To accomplish these goals without increasing the allotment of full-time equivalent students (FTES) and hence funding is self-defeating. If the CSU increases the students who stay and graduate without raising the ceiling on overall FTES enrollment, then it will have to decrease its capacity for new students.

This contradiction is an example of bigger problems. The CSU is publicizing student-success initiatives. It hires student-success-and-inclusion administrators to rally the campuses. (Of course, many faculty, staff, and administrators already dedicate their careers to such success, despite minimal recognition from the pundits, politicians, and planners.) But the zeal and ongoing hard work will lead to frustration, as they have before, unless high-level policy makers face up to and fix fundamental contradictions.

Sometimes, the contradictions are so entrenched that they seemingly cannot be resolved. Pretending that they can be ignored, though, condones an inadequate status quo. Giving up is no answer, either. To do so abandons even more students. Consider a big example. California’s public universities dedicate themselves to eliminating achievement gaps among races and ethnicities. Yet for decades, the state has condoned de facto segregation in the public schools. It is well established that they prepare students for college unequally. (Revenue-limits funding is the latest try at a fix.)

Further, Proposition 209 denies preferential remedies for ethnic disparities; it invokes equal opportunity henceforth, as if history bequeathed benefits and burdens equally to all groups. This is not just contradiction; it is hypocrisy. We try to extirpate implicit bias in university employees, a laudable effort. But we tolerate explicit bias in laws and educational policy that cause us to deviate from common-sense responses to long-standing problems.

*

Sotto voce, some policy makers will admit the contradictions. But they have concluded that certain political battles, like taking on 209, should not be fought because they likely cannot be won, especially in the gilded dawn of Trumpelot.

The contradictions also are rooted in how leadership leads higher education in California, especially at the state level. Often, leaders issue policies without consulting broadly. Thus, they do not uncover unintended consequences. Too often, policies about higher education express short-term political/publicity agendas. The agendas are supported by marginal evidence. The evidence is analyzed in limited contexts. The recent debacle at San Jose State over learning technology is a good example. The Bataan-like march to PeopleSoft in the 1990s was decided upon before being budgeted and planned properly.

How do these things happen? Policymakers compartmentalize decision-making. They disrupt educational practice, often by importing a seeming solution from industry, with cursory regard for context, consequence and—surprisingly—cost. Compartmentalizing anesthetizes them to larger and longer effects while paradoxically enhancing the illusion of immediate control.

There are other reasons for this state of affairs. California higher education no longer has a functioning Master Plan. Nothing encourages leaders to make long-term policies about higher education that are coherent and that, as an ensemble, shape budgets. The original Master Plan, for better or worse, underwrote the preparation of a three-tiered meritocracy to expand the economy. In turn, a flush economy would fund higher education indirectly through taxes. But this vision faded quickly. Many students and faculty did not see themselves as willing participants in an industrial and stratified society. Over time, policymakers became increasingly skeptical that higher education yields a return that justified large public investment. Sure, many people thought, elite universities engineer bombs and crops. Those items cost, but the return is, ah, huge! Tell me, though, why are we giving students in state universities almost a free ride?

CSU chancellors like Charles Reed tried to make compacts with Sacramento. But these new deals were broken. To be fair, the Master Plan had conceded that universally free higher education depended on a growing economy with stable public costs. The economic turmoil of the 1970’s and 1980’s dashed the pre-conditions for college with no or meager tuition, although the dream lives on. State propositions, swelling entitlements, and explosive growth in the prison system escalated public costs. Now, higher education engages annually in a battle royal with other agencies for the left-overs in the general fund. In California, the Master Plan entitles high-school graduates to a public higher education. However, higher education never has been funded by the state as if it is an entitlement program. This is a troubling.

Surely, the (dis)organization of higher education policy making in California is not a secret. No agency produces common data for the three levels of higher education. Efforts to link any data to K-12 outcomes are fitful. Efforts to correlate higher-education outcomes with work force or civil needs are rare. Since the closing of the California Postsecondary Commission, no agency examines K-16 with any regularity or thoroughness. Despite a recommendation in the original Master Plan, there never has been a body to coordinate both the discussion and research of policy about higher education. Instead, there have been intersegmental committees without much authority. Many of these committees have been ad hoc. Legislative commissions have come and gone. They have published numerous reports that have gone nowhere, too.

In other words, policy making for higher education has been even more loosely-coupled than the governance in the universities and their systems. What we have instead are opinions that rise and fall on whim, power, and one-time funding.

Obviously a hierarchical command structure is not the answer. There have to be better ways of making policy. But the polarization of blame neoliberalism entirely for corroding collaborative governance. Meanwhile, critics of higher education miss the mark when they scapegoat faculty entirely for inadequate change.

*

The contradictions emerge starkly when we look at enrollment and graduation. The chart below merges data from the California Departments of Education and Finance, the University of California, the California State University, the California Community College system, and the National Center for Educational Statistics. Rates of growth or shrinkage reflect the state’s assumptions for K-12, as well as the UC and CSU’s druthers, not their recent actuals. [Here the paper includes a rather complex chart projecting annual admissions to the UC, CSU and CCC’s from 2016 through 2027.]

The leftmost column records the year. The two columns to the immediate right round the state’s assumption that the graduating cohorts (commencing in ninth grade) will shrink slightly over the next decade. However, as the next set of columns show, the high-school graduation rate should continue to rise. (My numbers are more conservative than the most recent actual rate warrants.)

The Master Plan promised that every high-school graduate in California would find a seat in one of the three systems of public higher education. That is, by 2027, the systems should meet an annual demand over 440,000 freshmen. (See column, “Grads.”) Later, I will look at the PPIC’s claim for 1,000,000 more BAs by 2030 (approximately 600,000 by 2025) than current rates of growth provide. But we can note that this need, if taken seriously, will require a large increase in admissions. Projected jumps in the college graduation relate cannot reach this goal; even optimistic projections fall short.

The columns that are headed with “MP” record, from left to right, the percent of high school graduates from which the UC and CSU draw, that percent as a number, the share to the UC, the share to the CSU, and the remaining allotment to the community colleges. The next three columns track the distribution of students due to the A-G course requirements for entry into the CSU and UC. And the three rightmost columns estimate the actual freshmen enrollment to the three levels, assuming low growth.

The chart to the left summarizes the problem.  By 2027, the Master Plan, given the growth in high-school graduates, will call for nearly 2,500,000 more seats than would be provided over this period in higher education. Together, UC and CSU fall over 400,000 short. If you cut the cake, instead, with the projected passage of the A-G requirements, the shortfall in UC and CSU amounts to 775,000 freshmen.

Now, we can skirt these results. Over 200,000 students are admitted to UC and CSU annually. Of those, roughly 40% enroll. Acceptances exceed the formulas, if we interpret universal access as acceptance (instead of enrollment) for UC and CSU. But if the intent is to meet actual enrollment, then we fail.

Think of it. We will be pushing up the high-school graduation rate and the rate of A-G completion simultaneously with dampening enrollment in higher education. This is a recipe for student—and public–cynicism.

Some of this imbalance can be offset by the approximately 25,000 California residents who enroll in in-state private BA-granting schools annually. We also can include in the tally the 36,000 residents who begin as freshmen out of state. Do we want to provide partial vouchers to the students from these two groups who qualify for UC or CSU but do not find a seat in the systems (in addition to the state aid that residents who attend in-state private institutions already receive)? The cost probably would be between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars annually. Right now, there are 229,000 aid-qualifying California residents in four-year privates. Do we want to revise—or ignore—the commitments of the Master Plan?

*

Of course, there are implications for ethnic students—and the policy of closing gaps—if we let commitments continue to slide. I will look at these subjects later. But now I want to turn to the CSU’s latest graduation rate initiative.

DEALING WITH GRAD RATES
TOTAL FR TR BASE GR NEW GR F DELTA T DELTA ADDED
HEADC 424,000 62,000 58,000 57%, 70% 73%, 85% 8,060 6,985 15,045
FTES 360,000 52,617 49,223 6,960 6,032 12,992

 

The initiative is admirable, but consequences threaten to undermine it. The chart above indicates some of the problems. The root of the problems is that higher education policy is done piecemeal. In this case, enrollment is set in the state budget process with the governor and legislature. The graduation rate is set within the system, although many outsiders have agitated for it. The top line in the chart gives the enrollment in headcount (HC); the bottom line does so in FTES. The leftmost column records the total resident enrollment in 2016, followed by new freshmen and new transfers. The graduation rate columns indicate the expected growth from 57% to 70% for freshmen, and 70% to 85% for transfers. Graduation occurs over six years for freshmen and four years for transfers. (To simplify, I am not reviewing the projected four year and two years rates for these groups respectively.)

If successful, the initiative will add more students to the total enrollment since a smaller number will not finish. 15,045 HC will be added, and 12,992 FTES. However, the system is not figuring this increase into the permitted, funded total enrollments. In fact, it never has, thereby penalizing the campuses for success. There are several possible scenarios:

  1. The system absorbs the added HC, without raising the ceiling for FTES. This is The average student-credit load probably decreases roughly from 12.7 to 12.3, just the opposite of increasing load in order to hasten graduation.
  2. Presumably, the campuses would get the additional tuition and fees (approximately $103,000,000) to meet the increase. But if the increase in HC causes the campuses to surge past the un-changed FTES target, these funds will be penalized.
  3. The targets for the system are raised gradually to fund increased graduation, until 2025. If we hold all other effects on growth and tuition constant, the total FTES would increase 12,992 (4%), accounting for an additional $98,000,000 in allocation from the state.
  4. The state and system could decrease new students to offset the increase in continuing and graduating students. This is a steady-state approach that would make the CSU more selective by decreasing enrollment as qualified applicants increase. This phenomenon is a common spiral in universities. Increasing continuation and graduation pressure selection. CSU, for example, would accept students with higher GPAs and SATs. These indicators track with socioeconomic and racial factors, as the 2015 CSU study of outcomes So, the unintended consequences on equitable access can be severe.
  5. The CSU admits that such increases in graduation rates should require four hundred to five hundred million dollars to build capacity, according to an analysis of peer institutions. The sums in 2) and 3) are prior to that; those sums merely keep pace with enrollment.

Right now, CSU is drifting toward 2). Drift, however, is not an intentional plan. 3) provides the incentive and flexibility to address the increase in the production of BAs that the PPIC calls for. And 4) should appeal, more or less, to the advocates of no-growth because of no new funding. 5) reflects grim reality. The CSU will never receive this sum, under current political conditions.

*

The 2025 graduation rate project certainly is a stretch. That is not a bad thing, as long as goals do not become punitive. The system must guard against an unwarranted reduction in competencies, just to achieve the goals. The project to increase graduation rates from 2009-15 was data-driven and executed fairly. So, there is promising precedent within the system.

COMPARING EXPECTATIONS ABOUT RATE OF GROWTH IN 6 YR GR
ALL BL HISP WH AS OTH
PAST GROWTH RATE 11% 33% 14% 10% 16% 0%
O CLOSE GAPS AT 70% 23% 67% 37% 9% 15% 21%
FACTOR 2.07 2.04 2.66 0.92 0.92 68.97

 

The chart above indicates the extent of the stretch. The top line (“Past . . .”) shows the improvement in the 6-year graduation since 2009. The second line shows how much the current rate must increase by 2025 to close gaps and reach 70%. Wisely, the 70% is an average for the CSU as a whole, not a target for each campus. Nonetheless, the third line, “Factor,” suggests the challenge of closing gaps to zero. No matter where the bar for equalization is set, the percent increase for Hispanics, for example, will have to be more than two times greater than for Whites.

The scatter chart below [again I was unable to reproduce this chart -HR] shows the graduation rate for 2014-15 in the vertical axis and SAT Math scores for the campuses along the horizontal axis. Included are 225 public peers (blue dots). Most dots represent one school; several two or three. The light beige box in the top right-hand quadrant illustrates that a 70% graduation rate correlates with at least a 525 SAT in Math. One CSU campus already lies within the boundaries (red dots). Five others are within range.

However, the likelihood of them rising sufficiently above 70% to offset those that will not is low.

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To close gaps meaningfully, we must overcome two big ideological obstacles. The first is within the CSU, the second is at the level of the state. Currently, in the CSU we have many tools—high schools courses pumped with college content, summer bridges, a host of digital applications, special advisors, etc. Clearly they have accomplished much. But all these projects are hampered because we determine success by measuring the performance of the wrong thing. By and large, we track students’ success in order to infer the functionality of the educational systems. We assume that students require remedy; the universities, not so much.

However, we need to diagnose the functionality of the educational systems themselves more directly and more completely. Today, students must navigate the different parts of a multi-tiered system, with a jumble of standards, connections, and implementations. These parts often do not match well. For instance, to close the gap in preparation for college, we really need to determine the missed content/pedagogy in specific high school classes as well as the inconsistent or irrelevant content/pedagogy in the matching college curriculum. In other words, do the outcomes of one level match up with the prerequisites of another? Along the way, we would figure which courses (and classes/sections) fell out of a range of clustered, acceptable performance.

Sure, intersegmental or inter-campus committees tackle these issues. Are the results disseminated thoroughly? Are programs subsequently designed with results in mind?

Cooperation on the change of broad practices in higher education is hard to achieve, harder to sustain, and hardest to make meaningful. It is far different from the commitment of a like- minded vanguard, living on one-time funding; it is much different than the grudging concessions by faculty who are conscripted to the task of agreeing with peers in other systems.

Consider how faculty implemented SB1440; the bill called for the clarification of courses that can be transferred from community colleges to the universities. A handful of faculty compared a handful of exemplary syllabi as representative of teaching and learning in hundreds of courses and thousands of class sections. This is not substantive. Meaningful collaboration requires different levels of education to behave collegially with sound methodologies. It requires individual faculty in university departments to act as a collective faculty and to tame the impulse to invoke academic freedom to resist adjustments in teaching.

We have distilled little wisdom about change management from previous efforts to reform. Thus change is slow, and it is fitful. We do not have the structure and culture of hypothesis, assess, scale/train, plan/fund, do, assess, and etc. Cries of academic freedom, claims of institutional autonomy, and acts of impulsive leadership in the state and systems trump interdependence.

The obstacle at the level of the state will be hard to remove because it is so entrenched. It is a paradox, a Catch-22, or an instrument of oppression, depending on one’s point of view.

Generally, the state and the public support the goal of inclusiveness. They do not support a clear means of achieving it, though. Proposition 209 anticipated national rulings against preferential treatment of historically under-represented ethnic groups.

Proponents argued—and argue—that equal opportunity must be universal, despite broad, historical and continuing disadvantages to specific groups. For instance, Hispanic students enter the CSU with SAT scores nearly 20% below the scores of White students, while they are three times more likely to be routed into remedial classes. They are more likely to be financially disadvantaged. Researchers have correlated these characteristics with preparation in effectively segregated, poorly funded schools with high turn-over in teachers.

Meanwhile, the number of Hispanic undergraduates has nearly doubled in the CSU since 2004. At the same time, state funding per FTES has decreased by 40% in constant dollars.

In such context it is hard not to see inclusion as merely a slogan. Hope is fed by the parable of loaves and fishes. Somehow, the magic of higher education in the CSU will convert meager resources into good ‘n plenty.

*

We do not like to think of higher education as an industry that, among other jobs, prepares parts of the workforce. But of course, it does; or, at least, it certifies so. How does its output match demand? According to NCES data, the CSU grants 40% of the BAs in California. And the PPIC says that California will be 1,000,000 degrees short of what the workforce demands for 2030 (dated from 2015). That implies that 666,000 should be the goal for the two-thirds mark, 2025. If the CSU is obligated to meet its share of 40%, then it would have to produce 266,000 more BA holders over ten years than current graduation provides for. Possible?

As I have said, the current graduation initiative is a stretch. But let’s assume that the system meets its marks for graduation of 70% for first-time freshman and 85% for transfers by 2025. By then, the CSU would graduate 15,040 more BA students annually than now. Remember, though, we build up to that over ten years. Over those ten years, we would add only 85,000 BA’s, a little less than a third of the needed 266,000. If we would add overall growth of 2% annually to the model, we might augment the total graduates by another 1,500.

There are ways to remedy, but not to cure, the problem. We could try to capture more non- graduates and tailor pathways for them through extension. We could concentrate on reducing remediation to the minimum; then we could apply the associated resources to increase transfer students to the CSU. On average, transfer students complete the BA in the CSU more reliably and quickly than freshmen. Even so, we could not erase the deficit.

My point is simply this. We are set up to fail, even if we succeed in increasing the graduation rate to the targets. We still will fall short of meeting the swelling demand from high school graduates, as well as the needs of employers. I suppose that we can hope, cynically, that globalization and robotic technology increasingly supplant college-educated workers. Along the way, we should develop social policy to accommodate the unplaced high school graduates. But that will not happen, given that leadership ignores consequences.

The state invests in higher education mainly to secure a sophisticated workforce. (An educated citizenry is the principal goal of elementary and secondary education.) So, the state has the fiduciary responsibility to see whether the outcomes correlate with intentions. But this task is accomplished haphazardly. Professional accreditation in technical fields like engineering, accounting, and nursing act as agents of the state and public; they do the best reviews.

Another indicator of effectiveness could be the correlation of academic undergraduate fields of study with fields of employment for BA graduates (left). This might indicate whether advising shapes academic choices in the mold of the market. An analytic approach would identify the appropriateness of the skills that a field of study developed with the skills used in work. Such a study would plumb employment/unemployment records and tax rolls to link job data to academic inputs and outcome.

The adjacent chart suggests that we educate significantly more social science undergraduates than there are directly related jobs, through the middle of the next decade. Similarly, we over- produce in the traditional arts, sciences, and humanities. Overall, the organization and provision of knowledge in the CSU seem askew of the demand for workers in engineering/ computer science, and teaching K-12. This could be good, this could be bad. Since we do not investigate the gap, we do not know.

We speak often about the college advantage in financial terms. College graduates, on average, make $20,000 more per year more than high-school graduates. People with some college out- earn high-school graduates narrowly. When we account for the cost of attending the CSU, and when we factor in the cost and earnings of those who do not graduate, a CSU education is worth approximately $560,000 more over a lifetime than a high-school degree. This total is equivalent to investing an average BA income at 6% for forty years. In other words, there clearly are less onerous ways than attending college to generate a passable income. Perhaps the pundits are right; drop the curtain.

*

Of course, the argument for extending college to the historically under-privileged is broader than spurring income. The effects on health and well-being are profound. The conversion of income into purchasing power helps the economy. BA graduates provide the essential services in business, health, and education that routinize innovation.

Social equity and economic efficacy are partnered, especially as the pool of people available to the college- educated portion of the workforce becomes more diverse. For this partnership to work, leaders must help the general public see the contradictions that frustrate change. If we do not mind the gaps in education and income between historically under-served populations and the remnant of a once White majority, then the future is dim indeed.

That is why to champion graduation at the expense of access is as problematical as expanding access while ignoring graduation. To achieve either without coordinating outcomes of one level of education with the inputs of another is nearly impossible. To expect pedagogy in the university to compensate for years of insufficient preparation for college is unrealistic. To generate appropriate plans—and to stick to them—requires a council and/or agency that gathers and analyzes data and coordinates change across the tiers of education.

*

So, what is to be done and in what order?

  • Start simply. The system and the state should make sure that the CSU is not forced to narrow access because it retains and graduates more
  • Nor should it lose funding per FTES because funding from the state is capped while HC increases. If these deals cannot be struck, then we really are at
  • In addition to the FTES that are generated by greater retention, the system should grow another two to three percent
  • Once the community colleges demonstrate that they can graduate/transfer students of color at rates close to the retention rates of first-time freshmen who are entering their third year in the CSU, transfer should become the major source of the new undergraduate FTES. This action aligns with the Master Plan of 1960; and it capitalizes on capacity in the community colleges that can offset the squeeze in CSU and
  • Remediation is the end of the road for nearly 50% of the CSU students who do not graduate. Many of these students come from under-served backgrounds. Because of equity concerns, we should compare a cohort of freshmen who were barely exempted from the requirement from arrays of those who were not, to make sure that the effect is warranted.
  • We need to be much more certain than we are now that what we teach in remediation is crucially helpful in college-level
  • We also have amassed evidence from Early Start. The colleges of education, as well as some of the K-12 subject-matter experts in the departments, stay on top of the changes in the A-G requirements in the high schools. Although vanguards of faculty and administrators have investigated these data, results have not been disseminated widely and deeply enough to standardize best practices over the hundreds of course sections on the twenty-three campuses. The scale of the problems calls for a scaled
  • We should improve the remediation completion rate by ten to fifteen percent by 2025, a reasonable
  • That would free up approximately 8,000 FTES. The sum could be plowed back into admissions.
  • In the meantime, as the Master Plan indicated, the universities should be reimbursed by the state and/or the districts for the expenditure on remediation.
  • We also should separate out the graduation rates for remedial and non-remedial A first-time freshmen who has passed A-G but needs one or two levels of remediation in both Math and English will not graduate in four years.
  • Until recently, affirmative action has not been a significant issue in admitting and retaining students in the CSU. While racial/ethnic gaps have persisted, limited access has not been viewed as a cause. However, impaction across the campuses has changed conditions, as have demographics. Unless the campuses are encouraged to target and retain black students, their numbers will continue to fall, reflecting trends in the general population. The cultural barriers—familial priorities—to persistence among some ethnic populations are distinct enough to warrant special intervention. Efforts to equalize opportunity should not be discouraged, if there is reasonable evidence of distinctive need.
  • State leadership must decide whether enrollment in higher education should be linked to the size of high-school graduation cohorts or not. This is a strategic, long-term question. Linked to it is the question whether public higher education should prepare enough graduates to fill the anticipated workforce. The decision turns on several other issues. Have the projectors accounted sufficiently for the effects of globalization and technology? Do they want to keep tuition reasonably low to preserve, indeed increase, access? Can they re-calibrate the state budget, so that higher education recapture some share of the overall budget? Or do they prefer to let the market determine the price of a largely privatized higher education?
  • These questions do not need a commission. Rather, they require leaders to do what they are supposed to do—lead into the future. There are enough white papers. Now we need an honest statement of the direction that we will travel.
  • A coordinating council for higher education only is needed if state leaders agree that the educational and labor systems should be complementary. Such a council would oversee a small agency that would collect, scrub, and publish common data; the council also would commission the agency to do special reports and/or to contract for them.
  • The council would work largely within the Donahoe Act and Education Code. It should not be asked to tear down the Master Plan and establish a new one.
  • Rather, it should interpret the Master Plan in light of new realities. For example, the Master Plan linked fees/tuition to significant growth in the state’s economy. How do we interpret that linkage today?
  • The Master Plan imagined that there would be a physical community college and/or university within commuting distance for most of the population. Congestion and impaction have challenged that assumption, as has the virtualization of the How do we conceive of physical access in this new era?
  • Transfer implies the physical relocation from one campus to another, once conditions have been? To what degree should transfer be physical?
  • The Master Plan insisted on assessing the achievement and persistence of students as measures of institutional success? Given what we know about assessment today, how do we interpret this charge?
  • This council does not govern like boards of regents and trustees. Rather, it is advisory and facilitative for the systems and their connections. Ultimately, its authority will depend on its level of skillful pragmatism. Are its recommendations aspirational but achievable? Membership should include educational system leaders (staffed by their analysts), as well as representatives from appropriate legislative committees, the legislative analyst’s office, the governor’s office, independent public policy institutes, and faculty who are recognized as experts in the study of higher-education.
  • Ideally, they can be the keepers of the joint mission. Their collaboration, length of service, and usable advice can be bulwarks against fads and inconsistency. Members must think of themselves as agents of the state, not emissaries from compartments in the bureaucracy.

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