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The California Master Plan: Reducing Competition
Master Plan Provisions for Collaboration: Student Transfer and the Joint Doctorate
Additional Areas of Collaboration
Tidal Wave II: Enrollment Growth and Fiscal Constraint
Closing Observations
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Throughout the nation, competition and collaboration among colleges and universities occur in many forms. Among institutions, the most visible, if least educationally meaningful competition—across states and within them— is played out on the athletic fields. Somewhat more relevant to the educational enterprise, the rankings of institutions in U.S. News and World Report, and of graduate education and research, receive modest attention from the media and the public, as well as mixed criticism and acclaim by the higher education establishment. In contrast to the relatively high visibility of these competitive dimensions of higher education, collaboration and cooperation go largely unnoticed. In this paper, we emphasize the latter aspects of higher education in one state, California. Specifically, we focus attention on the four “segmental” components of that state’s system—that is, on the three public systems and the independent sector—not on the individual campuses that comprise these segments. Because almost ninety percent of the state’s higher education enrollments are in public institutions, we look mostclosely at the public sector.

Our context for examining collaboration and cooperation in California is the 40-year experience of growth and change in these four segments since the enactment of California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education (see Table 1).1 Over the 40 years since the Master Plan was enacted, enrollments have grown from 484,000 to over 2.2 million. Three times more students are enrolled in the community colleges today than were enrolled in all higher education in California in 1960.

For the past four decades, California public higher education has been controlled by the Master Plan. This plan severely limited competition within the state and among the segments, by differentiating missions and admissions standards. This has enabled the state to avoid the proliferation of campuses that has plagued many other states and has enabled the institutions to avoid the turf battles common to many other states. Meanwhile, the segments have grown while maintaining access and excellence.

At least in the abstract, limiting competition among the segments seems like a condition that would favor greater collaboration among them, yet this has not been the result. Although the Master Plan provided strong means for limiting competition among the higher education segments in California, it has encouraged collaboration by much less rigorous means. As a result, collaboration, while not deliberately discouraged by state policy, has not flourished.

California and many other states now face a future in which, we believe, collaboration within higher education is likely to be much more critical to meeting state needs than in the past. The longevity of the Master Plan and the extent to which it has been studied offer an opportunity to examine in depth the nature of competition and collaboration within higher education. California and other large states may derive insights from this examination, as they prepare for what we perceive to be a challenging future in meeting state priorities for higher education.

The first section below describes the Master Plan and how it limited competition in California. The second section examines two Master Plan provisions written to encourage collaboration: student transfers across segments (a fundamental element of access and opportunity) and joint doctorates. The third section describes additional types of collaboration, including voluntary associations at the state and regional levels, joint facilities, and the California Virtual University. The fourth section discusses the past and future of enrollment growth and fiscal constraints on collaboration. In the fifth and final section, we observe how California requires—and will require— much greater collaboration in the future than is now in place, if the state’s higher education is to meet the converging challenges of greater and more diverse student demand, and problematic state fiscal support.


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© 1998 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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