California Master Plan for Higher Education

California Master Plan for Higher Education

The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960 was developed by Clark Kerr during the administration of Governor Pat Brown. It set up a coherent system for postsecondary education which defined specific roles for the already-existing University of California (UC), the California State University (CSU), and the California Community Colleges system (CCC). It alternatively is called The Donahoe Education Act of 1960 named in honor of the late Assemblywoman Dorothy Donahoe of Bakersfield.


At the time, the state's legislators and academic administrators foresaw an approaching surge in University enrollment, due to the baby boom (people born after 1945) coming of age, and that they needed a plan to be able to maintain educational quality in the face of growing demand. The underlying principles were:
*that some form of higher education ought to be available to everyone regardless of their economic means, that only a person's academic proficiency should determine how far they can go; and
*differentiation of function so that each of the three systems would strive for excellence in different areas so as to not waste public resources on duplicate efforts.Clark Kerr stated that his goal was to balance the competing demands of fostering excellence and guaranteeing educational access for all.

Hence, the Plan laid out that the top 12.5% (1/8th) of graduating high school seniors would be guaranteed a place at one of the University of California campuses (Berkeley, Los Angeles, etc.); the top third would be able to enter the California State University (San Francisco State, Cal State L.A., etc.); and that the community colleges would accept all applications. Previously the UC's admissions standards allowed the top 15% of the state to enroll, and the CSU would accept the top half. The percentages are enforced by sliding scales equating grade point average and scores on the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT, which are recalculated every year. No actual rank of the students in high school are used as many schools do not rank students.

In addition, graduates of the community colleges would be able to transfer to the Cal State or UC systems in order to complete Bachelor's degrees, being accepted as third-year students at the Universities by virtue of their community college coursework. (This last item was already prevailing before the Plan's adoption.) The Plan established that the University of California would be the sole part of the system charged with performing academic research, and able to award Master's and Doctoral degrees; the Cal State system would be able to award joint doctorates with the UC. The Plan recognized that research and Doctoral education are expensive, and for that reason restricted them to the UC system.

The Regents of the UC and CSU approved the Plan in 1959, and the California Legislature adopted it in 1960 in special session. Periodic reviews by the Legislature occur, occasionally adopting modifications.

The effect of the plan was to increase overall efficiency in the higher education system, to produce greater numbers of graduates at a lower per-student cost, by removing redundancies (thanks to clearly specifying the missions of each system segment, clarifying what the "territory" of each is). In addition, it established a "rational" planning process for the growth of the university systems, setting aside a past practice in which the Legislature would introduce bills establishing new four-year universities in a member's home district, a kind of political pork.

The Plan was the basis for a great surge in development in California higher education. Today, many credit the California universities for the place California holds in the world economy and its own economic makeup, with great investment in high technology (Silicon Valley, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals). These and other sectors are the backbone of the "knowledge worker" economy (see Peter Drucker), which needs an educated workforce to exist. The plan is one of the reasons why the University of California system is perceived as being more selective and prestigious than the California State University system.

Recent Changes

The awarding of doctoral degrees had been exclusive to the UC system, with the provision that the California State Universities could offer Ph.D degrees as "joint" degrees in combination with University of California and accredited private universities. This is why, for instance, San Diego State University can qualify as a Carnegie Foundation "Research University with high research activities" by offering 16 doctoral degrees ( [ Carnegie Foundation link] ).

The 1987 revision specifically recognized the contributions of the independent sector and made explicit provision to include the independent sector in the planning functions of the state's higher education system. It also established a policy to set the maximum award for Cal Grants in state law.

In 2005 the demand for high school and community college administrators brought about a widely debated exception to the existing differentiation of function. Under the provisions of SB 724 (signed into law September 22, 2005) the campuses of the California State University may, for the first time, directly offer a Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D. or education doctorate) "focused on preparing administrative leaders".

See also

*California Postsecondary Education Commission
*California State University
*University of California
*California Community Colleges system
* [ Rarick, Ethan] (2005) "The Life and Times of Pat Brown - California Rising" (Ch. 7) Berkeley, CA: University of California Press


* [ SB 724 as chaptered in 2005]

External links

* [ "The Future of Flagship Universities", by Robert Berdahl, former Chancellor, UC Berkeley]
* [ "Clark Kerr's legacy: 1960 Master Plan transformed higher education", UC Berkeley public relations office]
* [ "Sections 66010.4 et seq. of the California Education Code (Master Plan for Higher Education)]

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