Doctorate Plan Finds Foes Within CSU System
Opposition to California State University’s plan to offer doctorates has begun to surface in a surprising quarter: the faculty.
Although the statewide Faculty Senate voted earlier this month to endorse the Cal State administration’s plan, it did so only on condition that a number of its demands be met, including an infusion of money to cover the entire cost.
A number of individual professors and the faculty governing bodies of several campuses have gone even further and actually have begun a quiet campaign against the administration’s proposal, which must be approved by the state Legislature before it can be implemented.
The concerns of the Cal State faculty come on the heels of sharp criticism of the plan by the University of California, which now holds a virtual monopoly on the doctorate in California among state-supported institutions.
So far, skeptics at Cal State and opponents at UC agree, no convincing evidence has been brought forward to support Cal State’s contention that there is a need for additional doctorates in the state, even in the area of education administration, where Cal State officials would like to move first.
Even if such evidence can be marshaled, the critics argue, there are no reliable estimates on how much such a move on the part of the 19-campus Cal State system could cost the state. Nor is there any indication that UC would not be in a better position to meet any demand that might arise.
Finally, critics say, the introduction of doctoral programs could undermine undergraduate education, which has been Cal State’s primary focus since its mission was laid out by the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960.
Under the master plan, UC is responsible for advanced graduate education and research, while Cal State is to focus on undergraduate studies with some offerings at the master’s level. Although a few Cal State campuses now offer a limited number of doctorates, they do so only under joint authority with UC.
The master plan, which is under review by the Legislature and a panel of state educators, was designed a quarter of a century ago to curb unhealthy competition between the two major public systems. Not only is it credited with limiting unnecessary expenditures, it is generally seen as a major factor in making the University of California one of the nation’s great research universities. Many observers have said, however, that UC’s success came at the expense of Cal State, whose faculty has chafed at its second-tier status.
‘Appears Not to Be the Case’
“Many assumed that UC’s greatness was won on the back of Cal State,” said Patrick M. Callan, director of the California Postsecondary Education Commission. “That appears not to be the case.”
The reluctance of at least some faculty members to get into the business of offering doctorates is an indication that they are not as “frustrated” as some people had supposed, he said.
“Some of the faculty--many of the people--at Cal State are really committed to undergraduate education,” Callan said. “They are afraid of what this might do.”
The battle over doctorates at Cal State appears to mirror the experience in other states. Typically, former teachers colleges have tried, often successfully but at considerable expense to their states, to expand into full-fledged universities with graduate offerings that overlap with those already in place at the states’ major research institutions.
Despite such comparisons, officials in the Cal State system, including Chancellor W. Ann Reynolds, have strongly objected to the characterization of their plan as a dramatic departure from their current mission.
“We are not trying to move into the area of doctoral research. . .,” Reynolds said in a telephone interview. “We are not research universities. . . . We do not aspire to be.”
What Cal State proposes, said Anthony J. Moye, Cal State’s associate vice chancellor, is to offer not a research doctorate but an “applied doctorate,” that is, one designed not for scholars but for practitioners in such areas as education, nursing and engineering. For now, Cal State is asking for the authority to offer only one degree--the doctorate of education administration.
The doctorate in education has never been particularly revered in academic circles, largely because it is a relatively new degree with no clear disciplinary base or methodology. And the doctorate in education administration is held in even lower esteem by traditionalists simply because it is not scholarly in nature.
Needed for Advancement
Yet many public school teachers and principals argue that a doctorate of some sort is absolutely necessary to advancement in their profession--and better, some argue, that it be in an area with some practical value than in a wholly unrelated field, such as English literature or American history.
As evidence of a need for such degree programs, Cal State officials cite statistics from the Assn. of California School Administrators showing that California produces far fewer doctorates in education than do other states--one for every 959,287 schoolchildren. In New York the ratio is 572,625 to one, in Pennsylvania it is 75,676 to one and in Texas it is 50,973 to one.
While doctorates in education are needed now, the demand will grow, John W. Duncan, president of the association, said in an Oct. 21 letter to Reynolds. Citing a 1983-84 survey, Duncan said that by 1989 26.4% of the state’s practicing administrators plan to retire and another 26.9% plan to retire by 1994.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of need, Cal State officials contend, is the large and growing number of California educators enrolled in private doctoral-granting universities. Many who want an advanced degree are forced to study on a part-time basis, often shouldering a financial burden, sometimes far from their homes, and not infrequently at institutions of questionable quality, the officials note. Opportunities for study at UC are limited for such individuals, they say, because UC’s programs are small and quite scholarly in nature, not particularly designed for practitioners.
Many educators in the state, particularly those in the UC system, are not impressed with such arguments.
‘Not That Impressive’
“The truth is,” said one UC education dean who asked that his institution not be identified, “every one of the four UC campuses that offers the doctorate in education has a very small pool of qualified applicants from which to draw. The students we turn away are simply not that impressive. That surely is a better indicator of the kind of ‘demand’ the state would want to respond to than the enrollment figures of fly-by-night operations.”
Allen G. Marr, dean of graduate studies and research at UC Davis who is chairing a UC faculty committee dealing with doctoral programs, said he, too, is far from convinced that “all that action out there is an indication of need.”
The question of need is a “very squishy” one, he said. While a person may have a need for an advanced degree, he explained, that is an “individual need” not necessarily a “societal need.”
“One of the things we need to decide is whether an increased number of doctorates would really improve education,” he said. “If it would, then that surely is an important societal need. . . . If it wouldn’t, then what we are really talking about is providing people with the credentials they want for better jobs and higher pay.”
Another issue that needs to be carefully reviewed, educators say, is the effect that doctoral programs might have on undergraduate teaching, which has been Cal State’s primary focus since its founding. According to Reynolds, Cal State now produces half of all the baccalaureate degrees awarded in the state and half of the state’s teachers, which represents 10% of the nation’s teachers.
‘Fell by the Wayside’
“If the history of what has happened at every research university I can think of is any indication, undergraduate teacher education will get shortchanged,” said Alexander Astin, professor of education at UCLA. “When UCLA’s School of Education went into education research in a big way, teacher education fell by the side. It happened at Berkeley. It happened at Michigan.”
Robert M. Rosenzweig, executive director of the American Assn. of Universities, which represents most of the country’s most prestigious research institutions, was more blunt about Cal State’s proposal.
“It’s a terrible idea,” Rosenzweig said. “The fact of the matter is that this nation doesn’t need any more doctoral programs of any kind and certainly not in education.”
A crucial factor in designing a graduate education program that is “worth having is that it have adequate resources--and that means libraries and small classes,” said Patricia Graham, dean of the School of Education at Harvard University.
What the cost would be of providing those resources is unclear.
Offer Little Evidence
Cal State officials contend that the cost of adding one doctoral program or even a few programs would be “marginal,” but thus far they have offered little evidence for this.
Rough estimates by state budget analysts suggest, however, that Cal State’s plan could quickly become a costly affair for taxpayers.
For example, they note that there is considerable disparity between what Cal State spends on libraries and what UC spends. And since libraries are generally agreed to be one of the most important factors in the quality of graduate programs, the difference, they say, could be significant.
According to the state’s legislative analyst, Cal State’s current library acquisition rate is about 475,000 volumes a year for 19 campuses, whereas UC’s is 609,000 volumes annually for only nine campuses. At an average cost of $25 per acquisition, that represents a considerable gap between the institutions and one that would be costly to fill, even in a limited number of subjects.
Another cost involves teaching and research.
Problem of Hours
At UC, faculty members are expected to conduct research--indeed, professors at most doctorate-granting institutions are expected to publish original work if they are to get tenure and be promoted. As a result, UC professors are required to spend only seven hours per week in the classroom.
A survey of the nine campuses done several years ago showed that, on the average, UC professors spent 26 hours a week on instructional activities (preparing for class, grading papers, meeting with students), 6.6 hours a week in meetings and other university responsibilities, 5.5 hours a week in public service and 23.6 hours a week on research.
Although no comparable survey has been done at Cal State, professors there are required to spend 12 to 15 hours per week in the classroom, which could mean at least 40 to 50 hours a week on instructional activities alone.
Cal State estimated that four years ago it would have cost $16 million to lower the student-faculty ratio by just one, from 17.5 to 16.5--in effect, budget analysts say, allowing 25% of the faculty to teach three classes a term rather than four. Today, budget analysts estimate, the figure would run closer to $25 million--and still would not allow very much research time for very many professors.
One of the campuses where professors are expected to lobby hard against the plan is Cal State Sacramento. There, a petition opposing the administration’s plan has been widely circulated and signed by about 150 employees, said Peter Shattuck, professor of history and chairman of the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate, he said, has also voted by an overwhelming 4-1 margin to oppose the administration’s request for authority to begin offering the doctorate.
Not Enough Support
Many faculty members, he said, believe that there is not enough financial support for what the university already does, let alone the costs of what could become a sizable new project.
Bernard Goldstein, chairman of the statewide senate, said in a recent interview that he was certain that a majority of Cal State faculty will fully support the doctoral plan if the state promised to provide whatever funds were required and guaranteed that the faculty would be fully consulted on the implementation of the program.
But not all Cal State faculty agree.
Explained a professor of humanities at Cal State Dominguez Hills: “A lot of people are very worried that the whole character of the undergraduate teaching college could be slowly eroded away by the addition of doctoral programs in this system, even in limited areas.”
Added the professor, who asked not to be identified: “You’ll still find, however, that many of us are reluctant to speak out in the paper against the plan because most of us think Cal State has become a pretty good place on its own merits. In essence, by criticizing this plan, what we would be doing is speaking out against the (Cal State) administration--and that can’t do us or them any good. For now, many of us are simply doing what we can behind the scenes.”