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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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Master Plan Provisions for Collaboration: Student Transfer and the Joint Doctorate

Two areas of collaboration are clearly provided for by the Master Plan: transfer, and joint doctorates.


Student transfer from two-year community colleges to four-year public institutions is a core component of the California Master Plan. The promise of transfer—the accessibility of the baccalaureate degree to students who enroll in the community colleges—is what makes selective freshman admissions to the university and the state university compatible with the state’s egalitarian civic culture. The importance of transfer and the seriousness with which it was taken by the framers of the Master Plan is reflected in its provision that the university and state university must maintain a ratio of 60% upper-division to 40% lowerdivision students. This provision would ensure that most students in pursuit of the baccalaureate degree obtain a lower-division education in one segment (community colleges) and then transfer for their upper-division courses to one of the four-year segments.

How effective is the transfer function in California higher education?

  • Although California has improved its record in terms of associate degrees produced per high school graduate during the decade of the 1990s, it declined from about the mid-point (23rd) among the states in terms of baccalaureate degrees conferred per high school graduate in 1992 to the bottom third (35th) in 1999. California’s heavy reliance upon the community colleges for lower-division instruction does not, in itself, explain the state’s relatively low baccalaureate degree productivity. Thirteen states with at least one-third of their enrollment in two-year colleges are above the U.S. average in terms of baccalaureate degree production in 1999 (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems 2001).
  • The absolute number of community college students transferring to the university and state university declined in 1997 and 1998—from 41,167 in fall 1996 to 37,103 in fall 1998, a drop of 10% in two years. The number of community college students transferring increased to 39,143 in fall 1999 but remained 5% below the 1997 level (California Postsecondary Education Commission 2000c). This volatility has been characteristic of California, rather than the exception. In a major 1990 report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found “alternating increases and decreases in the number of community college transfers to the university and state university in the period since 1960” (OECD 1990).
  • Arelatively small number of the community colleges account for the bulk of transfer students. In 1999–2000, approximately 65% of transfers to the state university came from 39 of the 107 community colleges; 64% of community college transfers to the university came from 23 of the colleges (CPEC 2000c). Many colleges produce very few transfer students. Students’ opportunities to transfer are uneven, depending on the community college they attend. At most of California’s community colleges, the students’ likelihood of transfer—and therefore of attaining a bachelor’s degree—is low.
These data reveal that California higher education appears to be underperforming in the system’s key process for coordinating between segmental functions, and significantly, in an area crucial to higher education opportunity. The reasons for this underperformance are the subject of ongoing debate. Problems frequently cited for blame include: deficiencies in curricula and instruction offered by some community colleges; poor counseling, articulation or financial aid policies; some community colleges’ lack of proximity to four-year campuses; and deficiencies of public schooling.

In planning for the future, the imminent, almost unprecedented enrollment demand—“Tidal Wave II” discussed in a later section—along with the high concentration of Hispanic, black and low-income students in the community colleges, have made California’s political and higher education leaders aware of the vital need for effective transfer procedures that will help accommodate the projected growth. California’s commitment to effective transfer has been renewed, and several initiatives are currently under way to address it:

  • To improve transfer, the state community college chancellor’s office initiated a series of memoranda of understanding (MOU) with the university (1997), the state university (2000) and the independent colleges and universities (2000). These MOUs set specific goals and expectations for transfer. Key components of the MOUs between the community colleges and the university and state university are agreements to increase the number of students transferring to the fouryear institutions.
  • The specific goals set in the MOUs (a modest increase of five percent per year) were reiterated (and in the case of the university, modestly increased) in “partnership” budget agreements established between the governor and the four-year public segments. In these separately negotiated compacts, the four-year segments agreed to “accept all eligible high school graduates who wish to attend” in exchange for a guaranteed four percent annual funding increase. As part of these compacts with the governor, both segments agreed to increase the number of community college transfers: CSU agreed to increase the number of annual transfers by five percent per year, to a total of 63,000 in 2005–06 (from 44,989 in 1998–99); and UC agreed to increase the number of transfer students by six percent annually, to 15,300 in 2005–06 (up from 10,150 in 1998–99). The university also agreed to increase the number of student transfers from low-transfer community colleges by 15% annually (State of California, Governor’s Office 1999a, 1999b; CPEC 2001a).
  • In their separate partnerships, the university and the state university also agreed with the governor to “expand course transferability” and “reduce barriers to students transferring.” Both partnerships call for the development and maintenance of systemwide agreements between these four-year segments and the community colleges concerning lower-division course requirements for 20 “high demand” majors. The university agreed to ensure that each of their general campuses has transfer agreements with “100% of community colleges within their respective service areas.” The state university agreed to increase—at the rate of five each year—the number of majors across its campuses that have common lower-division course requirements (State of California, Governor’s Office 1999a, 1999b).
  • Currently, two regular paths lead high school graduates to eligibility for admission to the university: standing in the top 12.5% of high school graduates statewide or standing in the top 4% of their graduating class. In an effort to increase the number of transfers to the university, the UC president has proposed a dual admissions plan that would be a “third path” to eligibility: students who are within the top 12.5% of their high school class would be simultaneously admitted to both a university campus and a community college. They would attend a community college for their first two years, and upon completion of specified transfer requirements, would then transfer to a university campus (UC Office of the President 2001c). Such dual admissions would enable a cohort of students to start together in the community colleges, while identified as university students. They would have access, it is proposed, to university counseling and financial aid information, as well as to the courses necessary for transfer. This program was recently approved by the UC Regents.5
  • Dual admissions programs occur between the state university and the community colleges on a campus-by-campus basis. Efforts to institute a dual enrollment program—where students are not just admitted to two institutions but actually enroll at both at the same time—were frustrated by uncertainty about which segment would receive state funding for dually enrolled students. Collaborative efforts are clearly difficult to initiate when they may mean a loss of funding based on enrollments.
These transfer initiatives are evidence that the state and segments are aware of the articulation problems, and are attempting to improve current procedures and remove existing barriers.


To date, the provisions for joint doctoral degrees explicit in the California Master Plan have engendered more controversy than collaboration. The joint doctorate was a compromise between the university’s insistence upon retaining the exclusive right in public higher education to offer the doctorate, and the perennial aspirations of the state university to offer it. This provision, an eleventh-hour compromise crafted by then-UC President Clark Kerr, effected the final consensus within higher education that made the Master Plan possible. The initial assumption was that most of the joint doctorates would be in the field of education (Douglass 2000). For the university, the joint doctorate was a concession justified by the need to reach closure on an agreement that protected its vital interests. For the state university and many of its faculty, the compromise opened new possibilities.

How has the joint doctorate fared over the past forty years? Not very well.

  • In 1965, five years after the Master Plan was adopted, the two San Diego campuses of the university and the state university established the first joint doctoral program, in the field of chemistry.
  • Since then, 16 additional programs have been authorized, although only 14 are active, five of which are in the field of education. Only four of the 22 state university campuses participate in the joint doctorate, and San Diego State University offers 11 of the 14 active CSU programs (CPEC 1998).
  • Enrollments in the joint doctoral programs have increased over the years—from 274 students enrolled in 10 programs in the fall of 1990, to 451 students enrolled in 14 programs in 1997—but still represent less than one percent of the state university’s graduate enrollment in that year. In 1997, enrollments in the joint doctoral programs ranged from only three in the engineering sciences program between San Diego State and UC San Diego, to 111 in the education program between San Diego State University and the Claremont Graduate School (CPEC 1998).
  • From 1990 to 2000, 40 joint doctorates were awarded, less than one percent of the total number of doctorates awarded in the state (CSU 2000b).
In March of 2001, the state university made the authority to offer a doctoral degree in education (Ed.D.) a part of its legislative agenda. Their representatives argued that there was an unmet need for individuals with an Ed.D. in both K–12 and the community colleges, and that the state university had the capacity to meet that need. Joint degrees were not a feasible solution, it was argued, because “the University of California faculty has little interest in producing such degrees in meaningful quantities” (CSU 2001c, 31). The state university supported its proposal by noting the Ed.D. was the only doctoral degree for which it was seeking authority, and that “a practitioner focused doctoral degree does not compete with or duplicate the research focus of UC’s doctoral programs” (CSU 2001c, 35).

The university responded to this proposal in a letter from President Richard C. Atkinson to CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed, expressing the university’s intent to pursue an “expeditious development and approval of joint programs,” as well as its concern that the CSU proposal meant a “significant change in the Master Plan” (Atkinson 2001c).

The state university’s proposal for a doctoral program in education has not only encountered resistance from the university, but from the state’s private segment as well. The private institutions cite recent findings by California’s coordinating agency that the supply of education doctorates offered in California meets the demand for these degrees (CPEC 2000a). In 1999–2000, private institutions issued 85% of the Ed.D.s awarded in the state and 69% of all doctorates in education, including Ph.D.s (CPEC 2000a, 215). The independent sector enjoys a near monopoly on Ed.D.s, one observer suggests, because the Master Plan created an “artificial restraint of trade”—the university has not been interested in the Ed.D., and the state university is prohibited from offering it.

The joint doctorate experience in California exemplifies the difficulties of collaboration between the state’s two four-year segments. The politics of this issue seem to pit the state university against both the university and the state’s private colleges and universities, in precisely the kind of competition that the Master Plan and the provision for joint doctorates sought to preclude.


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