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May 2001

The 40% Non-sequitur - Why the CSU Plan on the Education Doctorate Should Not be Approved
By Steve Morgan

In the March Cal-Tax Digest, Chancellor Charles Reed of the California State University tried to make a case for casting aside one of the guiding principles of the Master Plan for Higher Education. When the Master Plan was adopted, and as it has been reaffirmed several times, the public segments of higher education divided educational functions. The University of California was given the exclusive authority to grant doctoral degrees. CSU could only offer doctoral programs in conjunction with either a UC or an independent college or university. Now Dr. Reed proposes to change that.

Dr. Reed justifies his proposal to allow CSU independent doctoral authority on the notion that the state needs a large number of new administrators in K-12 and in community colleges. He comments that CSU would be a good place for doctoral training on three grounds; access (there are 23 CSU campuses in the state), affordability (CSU fees are lower than either the independent colleges or the University of California) and expertise (CSU trains a large proportion of the teachers). In a paper published as part of his campaign, he makes a fourth argument, quality.

What the chancellor fails to do in all the venues where he has attempted to make the case is to establish any reasonable nexus between doctoral education and the training of administrators. Clearly there are some common elements, but they are not the same. Indeed, only about 40 percent of the people who complete doctoral programs in education nationally ever work in administration. So the chancellor's proposal seems a very inefficient way to produce the crop of administrators that we need. We agree with most experts that the state faces a significant need for new school and community college administrators. But we disagree that throwing out a major principle of the Master Plan is the way to solve the problem.

If you look at the three fundamental arguments that have been raised by Dr. Reed, they do not fare much better. He argues that there are only nine University of California campuses and 23 CSU campuses, thus students who want a doctoral degree will have to drive less distance to go to class at CSU. The argument might be mildly convincing save for two conditions. Students who seek doctoral degrees in education are adults. While the proximity argument may be appropriate for undergraduates, it seems odd for students studying for a terminal degree. But even if you support the logic of closer campuses, his argument is still flawed. The education doctorate programs in the state are a mix of on-campus and off-campus programs. Several of the independent college and university programs are offered to students at off-campus sites. Hence, the programs literally go to the students, wherever they are in the state.

The access argument is even less compelling when you look at what the University of California and the independents have on the books in new programs. It takes several years to develop a new doctoral program in any field. So the CSU proposal would take several years to implement. At this point, UC President Richard Atkinson has proposed to increase the UC work in this field by 50 percent over the next few years. Similarly, there are at least nine new programs in various states of development and plans for expansion of existing programs in the independent sector. If there is a shortage now, the new or expanded programs will certainly meet the need.

Steve Morgan 
is president of the University of La Verne and chairs the Executive Committee of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities.

This commentary was offered in response to that of CSU Chancellor Charles Reed's commentary in the Cal-Tax Digest of March 2001. Dr. Reed's commentary is available at 
Cal-Tax Online

The affordability argument fares no better. True, the independent colleges provide about 70 percent of the doctoral education in this area and their tuition does not have the benefit of the non-need based state subsidy. But one must always look at the net price students pay rather than the posted price. Every doctoral program in the state offers significant assistance for students in need. A good indicator of the affordability of doctoral programs in education comes from an annual report by the National Science Foundation that finds that graduates in education doctorates consistently have among the lowest levels of debt of any doctoral field.

A different part of the affordability issue comes from the cost of state support. One of the reasons that the Master Plan limited doctoral programs to UC in the public sector was a simple recognition of cost. Would the development of a CSU doctoral program in education come at the expense of more core missions of the sector?

The chancellor's third argument is based on CSU's expertise in training teachers. We continue to quibble with his use of figures. According to the California Teacher Credentialing Commission, the independent colleges in the state train a bit more than 40 percent of the credential candidates, while UC trains about 5 percent; it is a bit hard to figure out how the chancellor can claim that they train 60 percent of the teachers in the state. During most of the 1990s, the independents supplied a substantial majority of new credential spots in the state. We would agree that CSU has some very fine programs in teacher education. But that issue aside, training teachers is a different question.

Dr. Reed cited a report by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration that recommends all administrators have a doctoral degree. That is one opinion. A more compelling alternative comes in national standards proposed by the Interstate School Leaders Consortium. Rather than arguing for a single degree as a path to administration, they propose a series of skills, knowledge and attitudes that make a good administrator. There are some excellent non-degree programs offered by organizations like the Association of California School Administrators that offer specific focus on the problems of school administration. One-hundred percent of those graduates enter school administration.

The California Postsecondary Education Commission did a thorough study of the issue of doctoral programs in the state at the end of last year. One of their significant findings was that a primary motivator for students in doctoral programs in education was personal, not professional. A survey of current administrators found a high correlation with the value that administrators held for doctoral training and whether they hold the degree; i.e. those who hold the degree value it highly, those who don't, don't. That is not to diminish the value of the degree, people begin doctoral programs for many reasons, but personal desires should not drive state policy.

In a report the CSU system offered recently, they mount a fourth line of attack. They question the quality of some programs in the state. They tie accreditation by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCATE) as an indicator of quality. That is an odd indicator. Many CSU teacher education programs are accredited by NCATE, while most UC and independent programs are not. But neither are programs at nationally recognized powerhouses like Harvard, Northwestern, Columbia, Stanford or the University of Southern California.

Let's get back to the fundamental question of how do you solve the state's need for more well-trained administrators. A recent hearing in the Legislature's Master Plan Committee suggested just how hard the problem is to solve. Many practicing administrators commented that it is increasingly difficult to attract and retain administrators. Pay and working conditions seem to be major deterrents to finding people who want to do this work. Why not build on the governor's initiatives for teachers and principals to focus on school and community college administration? Wouldn't it be easier to provide some modest incentives for people who seek to enter the field than throwing out a key principle of the Master Plan that has served the state well?

We would agree that CSU has some very fine programs in teacher education. But that issue aside, training teachers is a different question.