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ERIC Number: ED534855
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jun
Pages: 79
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Best Laid Plans: The Unfulfilled Promise of Public Higher Education in California
Poliakoff, Michael; Alacbay, Armand
American Council of Trustees and Alumni
Echoing the words and thoughts of Thomas Jefferson, California's state constitution embraces the noblest of principles in its vision for public higher education. Over the decades, California public higher education has dominated policy discussions as a model of access and excellence and a powerful engine of economic growth. Indeed, it would be hard to overstate the scale, significance, and potential of California's public universities. But California's best laid plans for higher education are now in serious danger. Many attribute the threat to the reduction in public funding and the dire financial situation throughout California. The financial difficulties are formidable indeed. However, this report shows the real threat to the preeminence of California's higher education is not a lack of funds, although it is a serious issue. Rather, the real danger is a fundamental failure by today's trustees and system leaders to apply the same creativity and thoughtfulness that informed the Master Plan to a new world of reduced resources and a shrinking tax base. Unless there is a paradigm shift in the thinking of California's educational leadership, the promise of accessibility and quality will be lost. There are major problems that require urgent attention: (1) Dramatic hikes in cost to students and obstacles to university access; (2) Inadequate attention to educational quality and outcomes; and (3) Poor use of campus resources. Many of these problems are decades old. They will not be solved with the usual "solutions": the annual calls for more public money or higher tuition. Governing boards must energetically investigate and analyze faculty workloads, administrative salaries, building utilization, enrollment practices, student assessments, campus commitment to academic freedom, and other key measures. This report offers a snapshot of quality and cost-effectiveness and provides key metrics and policy guidance for California's higher education leadership. Asking how much people are paying to attend these schools, how the schools are spending that money, and what students get in return, this report outlines 12 key steps that those responsible for quality and cost--the trustees, working with faculty and administrators--must take to ensure that California's great schools remain great. Finally, this report is an invitation to a vigorous dialogue about issues that are critical for California and the nation as a whole. Appended are: (1) Criteria for Core Courses; and (2) School Evaluation Notes for Core Courses. (Contains 93 endnotes.) [This paper was written with the assistance of Chrisanna Waldrop. Funding for this paper was provided by the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.]
American Council of Trustees and Alumni. 1726 M Street NW Suite 802, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 888-258-6648; Tel: 202-467-6787; Fax: 202-467-6784; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Arthur N. Rupe Foundation
Authoring Institution: American Council of Trustees and Alumni
Identifiers - Location: California