The Associated Students Senate recently unanimously passed a resolution to support the creation of a new California Master Plan for Higher Education in California, with the student government body requesting that the 53-year-old document be renewed by February 2014.
The resolution primarily outlines the history of the document and explains reasoning for why changes are necessary, such as the outdated document’s failure to address the issue of online education. In regards to specific changes being proposed, the only such one noted in the resolution is the “creation [of] a survey committee made up of students, faculty, administration, staff from all facets of the California public higher education system” as well as “California taxpayers, alumni, legislators, representatives from the Governor’s office, K-12 education and affected unions.” This committee, as explained in the A.S. resolution, would be responsible for collecting “pertinent information of the higher education system” with the intention of using this information to draft a new plan that would be used for another 15 years. The rest of the plan simply explains how A.S. officials would reach out to individuals and organization such as Governor Jerry Brown and the UC Student Association in garnering support for a new, revised plan. The resolution requesting a new plan was passed at last Wednesday’s weekly Senate meeting.
The California Master Plan for Higher Education was developed in 1960 and set the standard for multi-tiered public higher education across the country, defining specific roles for the newly unified University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges systems and promising an affordable education to California residents. The revisions being proposed are the product of efforts by A.S. President Jonathan Abboud, External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Alex Choate and former A.S. President Harrison Weber, with A.S. On-Campus Senators Nikki Calderon and John Soriano also working on the project.
Naming high tuition costs as a key example of the Master Plan’s failure, Abboud said the plan was only supposed to be in place for 15 years. While numerous updates have been adopted, he said no replacement plan has officially been introduced. In 2002, recommendations were adopted that integrated K-12 programs, but Abboud and other executives insist a new plan is needed.
“Since 2002, technology has changed so much since then and the world is so much different. Even the demographics of the state are radically different,” Abboud said. “We need a master plan that’s not just about keeping the status quo.”
The resolution outlines issues with the current state of public higher education in California currently not included in the 1960 Master Plan, paying particular attention to improving the role of online education and diversity issues.
State Assemblyman Das Williams, who is chair of the state’s Higher Education Committee, said he is supportive but skeptical of the need for a new master plan in California. He said discussion about updating the plan will “have some usefulness,” but the most important objective remains getting more money for the UC, CSU and community colleges.
“I praise student government for being willing to take some action, because action is required to improve higher education,” Williams said. “There are big questions about whether or not we can implement anything, even if we do change the master plan.”
Todd Greenspan, Director of Academic Planning at the UC Office of the President, said the old Master Plan is not the sole reason for problematic issues within the higher education system, such as skyrocketing tuition costs, but that it makes change harder to achieve.
“The Master Plan is not responsible for that problem, but obviously complicates it,” Greenspan said.
The resolution will propose potential legislative changes to create a new master plan that will allow for more student diversity at campuses across the UC, which according to Abboud, the current Master Plan impedes.
“When you say a certain percent of California are people of color but then the percent at the UC is significantly lower, that’s an obvious problem,” Abboud said. “Diversity at the UC is threefold. A lot of people focus on admissions, and admissions is one of the problems, but the other two problems are enrollment and applications.”
But according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Dianne Klein, the UC has already implemented a program called Eligibility in the Local Context, or ELC, as a separate means of increasing diversity, in an effort to account for more diversity at the UC.
“Within the confines of the law, UC is bending over backwards to diversify our faculty and staff,” Klein said. “Eligibility in the Local Context is one mechanism to make that happen.”
According to Choate, the drafting process of the current plan during the late 1950s lacked student involvement. She said if the resolution’s campaign succeeds, it will establish a new survey committee focusing on student involvement “in decisions that will affect their education.”
“You can’t try to dictate what California higher education looks like without consulting students to see what they need,” Choate said. “I’d like to see at least the student Regent sitting in the meetings and on the board of stakeholders along with other representatives from the different tiers.”
Abboud also said other UC campuses will consider the resolution, with the Associated Students student body government at UC Davis already in its deliberation process. According to Calderon, Senators are hopeful that the full support of the other UCs will prompt the California legislature to consider drafting a new master plan.
“Most schools have been very receptive to it,” Calderon said. “I really think that once we have all the UCs on board, moving to the legislature with this could be very impactful.”
A.S. has also made an effort to reach out to UC chancellors, UC Regents, newly-elected UC president Janet Napolitano and government officials like Assemblyman Williams, who represents Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, as well as California Governor Jerry Brown.
Through these outreach efforts, A.S. officials hope to secure an endorsement for the resolution from the UC Student Association — a coalition of UC students and student governments that organize student-movements geared toward improving UC quality, affordability and accessibility — in order to build grassroots support for a the new master plan.
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of November 25, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.