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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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Additional Areas of Collaboration

Not all areas of collaboration are as closely identified with the Master Plan as student opportunities to transfer among segments and the joint doctorate. The additional experiences of collaboration discussed here include the Education Roundtable—a voluntary, state-level organization for collaboration—and other selected examples of collaborative activity.


The “unofficial” vehicle for coordination in the state is the California Education Roundtable (Roundtable), a voluntary body whose members include the state superintendent of public instruction, the president of the university, the chancellors of the state university and the community colleges, the president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities, and the executive director of CPEC. The Roundtable was first organized in 1979 by the president of the university to address outreach and teacher preparation issues. The operational arm of the Roundtable is the Intersegmental Coordinating Committee (ICC), which is composed of staff, faculty, and student representatives from all sectors of education. “The ICC has responsibility for fostering collaboration within California’s educational community at all levels through conducting activities and supporting strategies that link the public schools, community colleges, and baccalaureate-granting colleges and universities” (California Education Roundtable 2001).

The most visible accomplishment of the Roundtable with regard to intersegmental cooperation has been the development of recommended standards for high school graduation in English and mathematics. Two faculty task forces, drawn from K–12 and segmental faculty in the two disciplines, were appointed by the Roundtable in 1996. The proposed standards were endorsed by the Roundtable in 1997. “The Roundtable members are convinced that a statewide consensus on content standards is necessary to improve instruction and student performance. Clear content standards will represent benchmarks for teachers, parents, students, and the public” (Roundtable 2001). The extent to which these Roundtable standards influenced the statewide standards ultimately adopted by the California State Board of Education varies depending on the observer, but it is clear that this move was a highly visible exercise in a critical, controversial area of national concern (Maeroff, Callan and Usdan 2001). It has, we believe, set the tone for current, promising Roundtable initiatives.

Perhaps the most promising current Roundtable effort is to develop new statewide tests for high school students that would correlate to college admissions and placement. First discussed at a Roundtable meeting in January 2001, efforts are being expedited (using the ICC as a convener) to develop actual test design proposals, as opposed to just a study and report. We agree with those who see this as a very significant effort, as well as an excellent example of effective collaboration between higher education and the public schools. It does not diminish this effort’s significance to note that it responds to external pressures—public and political—for greater accountability.

Roundtable efforts are often inhibited by the Master Plan’s emphasis on segmental independence. Earlier this year, UC President Richard Atkinson made an important proposal asking UC faculty to eliminate the use of the SAT I examination as part of their admissions standards. He put forth the argument: the university needs an assessment instrument that correlates admissions criteria to high school coursework better than the SAT I. His proposal is now under consideration in a committee of the statewide academic senate. It has also stimulated discussion within the Roundtable because of its implications for ongoing state test development.

This university proposal offers a perspective on collaboration, or the apparent lack of it. Because each segment is responsible for its own admissions requirements, this initiative to eliminate the SAT I could be and was announced without prior discussion with the state university, the Roundtable or the coordinating agency. For better or worse, such a unilateral approach is more characteristic of California than are the collaborative activities sponsored by the Roundtable. It was apparently assumed, perhaps correctly, that the state university would follow the university’s lead in admission matters, as it has often done in the past—for example, in the specification of required high school courses.6

This instance also illustrates why most people who are not part of the higher education leadership—as well as many who are—view the potential of the Roundtable as limited (Richardson et al. 1999), even as “largely symbolic.” A Roundtable member told us that it provides an “outstanding opportunity for these folks to have a discussion about where they might collaborate,” but “it is a long way from these discussions to implementation that means anything.” An implicit purpose of the Roundtable, we suggest, is to assure the governor and the legislature that attention is being given to collaboration. The Roundtable does ratify important initiatives on which unanimity can be reached, but only a limited number of important issues can be addressed with unanimity in California.


The California Virtual University (CVU) is a recent example of a collaborative activity involving the four higher education segments. In 1997, then-California Governor Pete Wilson moved to establish the CVU, which was not intended to be a degree-offering institution, but rather an online catalog of courses offered by California’s colleges and universities, public and private. Although it would initially be supported by state funding, it would continue with funding from the state’s burgeoning technology industry, and eventually become selfsufficient. However, the start-up funding for the project never amounted to what Governor Wilson had anticipated (see Irving 1999).

Despite the less-than-enthusiastic response from funding sources, the Governor’s Office forged ahead with the CVU, establishing a task force with delegates from each of the four segments to implement it. By the end of 1998, the task force had prepared an on-line catalog with over 2,500 courses from over 100 campuses. At that point, the governor terminated state support for the CVU, arguing that further support should come from the campuses and business sponsors. That support was not forthcoming, however, and the CVU closed its “virtual” doors on March 31, 1999.

The management of this initiative by Governor Wilson certainly left much to be desired. Still, what could have become a statewide collaborative effort, among institutions from all four sectors of higher education, ended almost as soon as the external support and pressure—both financial and political— disappeared. When the governor’s support was withdrawn, the institutions simply said that they would not support the CVU. Institutional behavior was not affected by the demise of the CVU: institutions continued to offer their own courses on-line. The only difference was that those courses would have been part of a statewide catalog.

Would the virtual university have been a significant example of collaboration? It was instituted under political pressure and with added state funding. When the pressure and funding stopped, the venture was abandoned by the segments. In any case, whatever the merits of the initial proposal, it has apparently not led to other statewide forms of technologically based collaboration.


An increased interest in joint use of facilities is a relatively new example of collaboration among the public segments. Joint facilities operations are currently in place at several of the state university campuses. The state university faculty offer courses at community college campuses, particularly in impacted programs, that is, popular programs where student demand cannot be accommodated on the state university campus. Students can earn their baccalaureate degrees without leaving the community college campus.

In 2001, for the first time, the three public segments are seeking a $200 million set-aside in the capital outlay bond measure for joint facilities projects. Although the request represents only a small portion of the $4.8 billion bond proposal, it is symbolically significant in that it departs slightly from the historic 1/3 – 1/3 – 1/3 division of capital outlay bond dollars. The state legislature and the electorate must approve this measure if it is to pass. If the $4.8 billion in the current proposal is reduced by the legislature, as is likely, the commitment to joint facilities will be tested because the segments would have to agree to reduce their “shares” to protect the collaborative initiatives.7


We are unaware of any recent assessment of regional collaboration in California, but the general belief is that the best examples of “real” collaboration are at the regional rather than the state level. One such example is in the south, in San Diego, and one is in the north, in Sacramento.

In San Diego County, the presidents and chancellors of all local higher education institutions have frequent meetings to discuss local education issues. San Diego offers examples of collaboration, such as joint facilities and dual admissions. In the latter program, a number of students are admitted both to a local community college and to one of the two local state university campuses, located in San Marcos and San Diego. Also, the UC San Diego campus is leading a “university links” program, in which UCSD, local community colleges and the public schools are forming partnerships to identify and assist underrepresented students with their college aspirations.

In the Sacramento area, both the university campus in Davis—a short commute from Sacramento—and the state university campus in Sacramento proper have had a long-standing commitment to the transfer process. Moreover, it is generally believed that transfer may work better in this region than in other parts of the state. Collaboration on both transfer and K–12 outreach in the area is effected through “colleagues in conversation,” an informal but well-established forum where leaders of K–12, community colleges and the four-year institutions gather to discuss pertinent issues. The executive staff of the two four-year campuses hold periodic joint staff meetings to keep abreast of what is happening on each campus.

The effectiveness of regional collaboration depends primarily upon the styles, interests and personal compatibility of an area’s campus leaders, as well as on the proximity of their campuses. Because of the lack of any policy emphasis in the Master Plan, or any formal or informal models, regional collaborations depend upon the viability of partnerships between individuals. Location and a sense of local identity are also important, including a region’s specific configuration. For example, in the Sacramento area, with only one university and one state university campus, participants are said to be “easier to corral” than in other areas of the state.


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