Monday, March 23, 2009

The CSU: Inception of "The People’s College"

Rafael Vásquez

This article is the first of a three-part series where we look at the CSU system: how it relates to other public institutions of higher education namely the California Community College and University of California systems, and the changes that have occurred to its fees. The second article will study the reactions and actions taken by the California community—students in particular—in response to the changes, and thirdly, we will study similar student reactions and actions taken in different parts of the world. Our goal with this series of articles is to collect our findings and organize a summer forum inviting the community to collectively begin conversations on the issue. We bring this to the table in hopes of re-kindling dialogue considering past, present, and future discourses, in shaping the future of the CSU.

California’s public higher educational systems have withstood a lessening of access, quality, and affordability. A dismantling of the educational system looms such that the great equalizer of any given society—education—may become more and more illusory for many California students. Segments of this populace face increased obstacles within the context of the extant overall worsening of educational conditions. So, whereas education often harkened to a bettering of the socioeconomic position of constituents, present exigencies (i.e. lack of financial aid) may effectively stem the opportunities of students in achieving even a small measure of post-secondary educational success. In this series, we tackle the latter issue—affordability and fee increases at the California State University (CSU). In order to contextualize the current trends of "budget cuts" and its adverse implications, we begin by describing the inception of our three-tiered higher education systems and attempt to describe how the CSU situates itself among these.

The University of California (UC) was the first formal system of higher education in the state and a system where its founders weighed heavily on the creation of later institutions—CCC and the CSU. The first formal university of the system, Berkeley, was established in 1868, which was considered among the best universities in the nation, sharing the ranks with Harvard. Along these lines, the UC became among the leading research universities. The founding elements—nonsectarian and nonpolitical decision making, the tuition-free policy, and the mandate for geographic representation—of the UC became extremely important principles, not only guiding the development of this system but also influencing the development of a set of regional state "teachers colleges" and, as mentioned earlier, acting as a catalyst for the creation of California’s junior colleges. Although the system suffered setbacks, it did not incorporate tuition for over a century. In theory, all Californian’s could have the opportunity to attend the state university.

During the middle of the 19th century, largely influenced by presidents and friends of elite national institutions such as Yale and Stanford to name a few, the junior college movement took-off to meet the needs of all students who dreamed of attaining some college education. It was presumed that many students, who might not otherwise initially be admitted to the UC, should have other opportunities for pursuing higher education. As a result, under the guise of democracy and other elements, in 1910, the first junior college—community college—was established in the state. These new junior colleges had many missions. Among them, to create vocational programs, create terminal degrees, and develop semi-professionals. Since then, the two-year educational system has seen some changes, including the creation of 110 community colleges to meet the needs of its surrounding constituents. Currently, the community college is almost exclusively subsidized by the state, arguably, accessible with modest student fees—although fees have risen.

"Normal schools" were established with the primary focus of training its students to become teachers. These became the first systems of higher education established by the State in 1862. Largely ubiquitous, these institutions were later named "teachers colleges" after the 1920s--appropriate for the type of institution. It was not until after this point that these institutions were able to confer bachelor’s degrees in education and later master’s degrees. The turning-point came after the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which canonized these institutions to what we now refer to as the California State University. It is at this juncture, where its exponential growth can bee noticed and where the universities under this new system became largely financed by the State with a continued emphasis on teacher education.

The rapid increment of college ready "baby boomers" led university officials to create policy to allow them to gain opportunities to enter California’s systems of higher education. Under the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, admission policies would change, allowing the 12.5% of high school graduates to enroll in the UC and allow the top third graduation high school class to enter the California State University (CSU). In addition, this new policy created a hierarchical grade point average (GPA) system, allowing only some groups to enter the four-year institutions of higher education, while leaving others at the gates. The plan also served to formalize the three-tiered system:

The UC was to remain the State’s primary academic research institution and provide undergraduate, graduate and professional education, with exclusive rights in conferring doctoral degrees.

The California Community Colleges was to provide vocational instruction, remedial instruction, and continue its semi-professional orientation.

CSU’s primary mission was to educate undergraduates and graduates, including teacher education.

Per our discussion, however, the Master Plan sought to reaffirm California's long-time commitment to the principle of tuition-free education to residents of the state. To this end, we begin to delve into the issue of "budget cuts" and tuition increases at the CSU.

It was five years ago when governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, UC president Robert C. Dynes, and CSU chancellor Charles B. Reed reached an agreement on a six year "Compact" that would ensure affordability, among other things. This "Compact" took effect on 2005/06 and continues through 2010/2011. In following, we give a few facts and illustrate how student fees have dramatically risen since then at the CSU:

  • In 2003-04 the CSU Board of Trustees and the UC Board of Regents increased student fees by 30 percent. These fee increases were in addition to 10 percent increases that each governing board implemented in 2002-03.he Governor’s 2004-05 Budget proposed the following fee increases for the CSU in 2004-05:
  1. A 10 percent increase in the system-wide graduate fee, which would raise this fee from $2,046 to $2,251 per year at the CSU

  2. A 40 percent increase in the system-wide graduate fee, which would raise this fee from $2,256 to $3,158 per year at the CSU

  3. A 20 percent increase in the out-of-state surcharge, which would raise this fee from $8,460 to $10,152 per year at the CSU

Look for the second installment of this article in the next issue.

No comments: