California Higher Education Study

CarolFThomas Carol F. Thomas
Higher Education Study Chair for LWVBAE
Contact Carol to join the study committee or just come to a meeting.

Meetings: 2/9/16: Planning meeting for a upcoming student panel event; 1:30pm at the Berkeley Central Library.

2/16/16: Student Panel event, 12 noon to 2 pm at Berkeley Central Library, 3rd floor, community room (open to the public).
2/18/16: Planning meeting, 10am at the League office, 2530 San Pablo Ave, Suite F, Berkeley.
3/5/16: Planning meeting, 10am at the League office, 2530 San Pablo Ave, Suite F, Berkeley.
3/15/16: Higher Education Study Consensus Meeting, 12:15 pm at TBD.
3/19/16: Wrap-up meeting, 10am at the League office, 2530 San Pablo Ave, Suite F, Berkeley.

Interested in the problems in public higher education here in California? Want to help find some solutions?  We’ll begin work on the state study of higher education Aug 15 at 10 am and continue through the fall. Committee members will help shape state League higher education policy. I’m excited about this opportunity to learn together and contribute to our League. I’m looking for colleagues to work with me on the study committee.

Our league is coordinating efforts with the Oakland, Piedmont and Alameda leagues, but all local Alameda County leagues can send a representative. Leslie Smith from the Oakland League is chairing the group. Our meetings will be held at the offices of the LWVBAE, 2530 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley. The first meeting is scheduled for Saturday, August 15th at 10 am. Later meetings will be at 10 am on September 19, October 17, November 21, and, if needed, December 19, 2015, also in the League office.

For information about the issues, please see the packets posted on

The Committee will distill the facts and issues and present them to our members at meetings next spring. We’ll help members reach agreement [consensus in League lingo] on policies for a new state League higher education position. The state league will then be able to advocate for or against key legislation on public higher education.

I’m chairing our League’s study group. I’m looking for some folks to join me in exploring these issues in higher education: access, affordability, preparedness, equity, and funding.
Interested? Please send me an email at
Carol Thomas, Chair, Higher Education Study for LWVBAE
And read more below.

Why does our higher education need to improve?

According to California Competes, a council of independent business and
civic leaders, an effective higher education system is the cornerstone of the
American value to guarantee access to economic opportunity. Supporting
higher education also provides the seeds of innovation so that our most
creative and productive industries can thrive. A critical mass of well-
educated people is a magnet for investment. Investments in education
make it possible for our citizens to engage in a world economy requiring
increasingly higher levels of knowledge and skill for the most cutting-edge
industries and jobs.

The California Master Plan for Higher Education, a framework document
conceived in 1959, coordinates the responsibilities of the UC, CSU, and
community college systems. However, since 1959, the plan has seen a
decline in state funding, changing demographics and a complete
technology revolution.

Many claim that the current policy is out-of-date and in dire need of reform.
The Little Hoover Commission, an independent state
oversight agency, issued a report in October 2014, that called for a new
master plan to address:

“the state’s need to substantially increase the
number of graduates and the reality that state resources are limited.”

Some of the reasons they cited:
• The state is projected to have a shortfall by 2025 of one million students
with 4-year degrees and more than 2.3 million with degrees, certificates,
and diplomas needed to meet the stat’s workforce requirements.
• Insufficient classes contribute to low completion rates
• It is difficult to transfer course and unit credit within and among
segments, forcing students to repeat work
• The state is moving substantially slower than it should to integrate online
• The state has to figure out how to achieve better outcomes for more
students, without adding more money.

Recent data shows that California has slipped as an economic leader.
We rank 23rd in terms of the proportion of adults 25-64 with an associate’s
degree or above. This means the state is facing a skills gap, with the
economy increasingly demanding highly educated workers. In addition,
cuts in state General Fund support have led to increased tuition and fees in
recent decades, shifting more of the costs of higher education to students
and families. One consequence of this cost-shift, is that more students are
graduating with increasing amounts of student loan debt, while others are
forgoing higher education.

The League of Women Voters of California recognizes that public higher
education in California is at a crossroads. Unfortunately, the League does
not have a position on public higher education in California that includes
the CSU and UC systems, and therefore cannot comment or advocate for
or against any legislation.

In 2013, the League approved a statewide study to focus on higher education issues,
including funding, affordability, preparedness, equity, and opportunities and barriers for success. Local leagues are encouraged to get involved in the study and reach consensus on these issues.

If you are interested in helping with our local study group, please contact Carol Thomas via email at:

 Why We need a study

Public higher education in California is at a crossroads. Almost daily, there are news articles about the need for reform in terms of access, affordability, preparedness, equity, and funding.

Because LWVC does not have a position on public higher education that includes the CSU and UC systems, the League cannot comment on or advocate for or against any legislation on this situation. In recognition of the fact that education is the bedrock upon which democracy is built and sustained, a statewide study of Public Higher Education is now underway to help develop a specific position.

Articles on various aspects of the study will be published monthly in the spring of 2015 so that committees can begin to learn about the topics before the state study committee publishes the study kit and the study questions.  The study itself will take place the following fall and spring. Local leagues are urged actively by forming local study committees.