I know I’m a couple of weeks late with this, but April 26th was the 50th anniversary of the California Master Plan. Sounds devious, doesn’t it?
As an astute reader, I’m sure you’ve inferred that the CMP is not actually the work of an evil genius. Instead, it was the state of California’s 1960 plan to improve the state of post-secondary education. The Quick and the Ed has a history of the California Master Plan and issues that it has caused along the way with racial inequality and problems with transferring. I won’t go into all of that, but it’s an interesting read if you’ve got a few minutes. Essentially, the organization of the various universities, colleges, and community colleges was irregular to say the least. The Master Plan put into writing the way that the schools are now classified: the big research schools (the UCs) that take the elite students in the top 12.5 percent of their classes, the state schools (the Cal States) that take students that are in the top third of graduates, and the community colleges who take everyone else.
I do want to comment on the outlook of the California Master Plan in the next 10 years. The Quick and the Ed points out some startling facts that needs to be resolved ASAP and the easiest way would be a revision of the CMP. This past year, the UCs enrolled 2,300 fewer students. Not impressed by that number? The Cal States took 40,000 fewer. Want your socks knocked off? The CCs enrolled nearly a quarter of a million fewer students than the previous year. Aside from the obvious education gap that this creates, it works against the state in its quest for a qualified workforce. One estimate is that at current rates, California will need an additional million people to have bachelor’s degrees by 2025. With baby boomers starting to retire, there will be a huge need for current students to replace them and even add to them, because of probable changes to economic demands. So what needs to happen? Well, first of all, more students need to go to college in the first place. Only 36 percent of 19 year olds are enrolled in college. The national average is 42. Despite the strong institutions in the state of California (or perhaps partly because of them), California ranks near the bottom in college enrollment rates, but near the top of community college enrollment rates. However, it doesn’t do anyone any good for so many students to be enrolled and not actually get a degree or transfer. Even though California accounts for 23% of CC students in the US, it only gives out 13% of the associates degrees. That’s not because students are transferring to four-year institutions, either. Only 10-12% of community college students actually do so. This is an abysmally low rate, although it seems to be fairly common among community college transfer rates. One problem is the inability of the community colleges to coordinate transfer requirements. The UCs and Cal States all seem to have different requirements for transferring in credit and required classes. This becomes extremely frustrating to those who want to create a path for themselves to succeed. When community college advisors can’t tell their students what to do to prepare, then the students end up going nowhere, but that’s a separate rant completely.
So that’s where the California Master Plan comes in. The CMP needs to be revised to create systems of coordination and communication between the various institutions to better guide students through the process. The 4-year institutions need to graduate a higher percentage of their students and the community colleges need to prepare their students better and get them into the 4-year schools. It’s a tough burden to educate students better, but a much tougher one to find money to push more of them through at the same proficiency rates.