A bill that would allow the California State University to offer new independent and joint doctorate degrees has cleared one of its final stages and will now face a vote in the state Assembly.
State Senate bill 724, authored by Sen. Jack Scott, D –Pasadena, was approved by the Assembly Committee on Higher Education with a 5-2 vote July 5.
If passed, the bill would allow the CSU to offer doctorate degrees in education, independent from the University of California. In addition, some doctorate degrees would be offered jointly between the CSU and the UC.
According to Ken Swisher, CSUN spokesperson, there was a need for more CSU doctorate programs that was not being filled.
He said the areas specified in the bill include doctorates in education, audiology and physical therapy.
“Students were looking for those, and there weren’t enough programs available,” Swisher said.
Clara Potes-Fellow, CSU spokesperson, said that in her opinion, the UC originally opposed the bill because they wanted to have the exclusive right of being the public university that offers doctorates.
“(The UCs) would be losing students if other universities also could grant doctorate degrees,” Potes-Fellow said.
According to the Master Plan for Higher Education, originally created in the 1960s, there was a division of degrees that each public institution could grant. The plan allows the CSU to only grant bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Potes-Fellow said.
According to Potes-Fellow, the CSU was given the authority to offer doctorate programs in conjunction with the UC about three years ago.
“After two or three years of working with the UC, the CSU was disappointed,” Potes-Fellow said. “(The CSU) noticed that there was not enough commitment (on) the part of the UC to grow the program, to hire the faculty that was necessary, to respond to the needs.”
“(The UCs) were just dragging their feet, so the CSU went to Legislature and asked for authority to offer (doctorates in education) of our own” Potes-Fellow said.
According to John Sinclair, chair of the Communication Disorders and Sciences Department, certain elements of the bill were dropped so the UC would drop their opposition and an agreement could be reached.
“What came off the table were the independent doctorates in clinical areas, specifically audiology and physical therapy,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair said this prompted a side agreement between the UC and the CSU, mediated by Sen. Scott, which would allow an audiology doctorate degree to be offered jointly.
“For CSUN, it means that our Audiology program must negotiate with the UC to establish a joint degree program in the very near future,” Sinclair said.
According to the new accreditation standards, in order for an academic program to be accredited in audiology, it must offer either a clinical doctorate or a research doctorate by 2007.
Sinclair said that in California, San Diego State University is the only school that offers a doctorate degree program in audiology because it was able to utilize neighbor UC San Diego as its partner.
“Only UCSD was willing to work on a joint doctorate,” Sinclair said. “None of the other campuses would do that.”
According to Sinclair, the current situation is that most audiologists have to be educated outside of California because of the way accreditation has historically worked.
“(The United States) licenses 90 audiologists a year, and only about 40 of them are educated in California institutions,” Sinclair said. “After 2007, that number will drop to 10.”
He said the concern has been that many of the most qualified undergraduates leave the state to pursue a doctorate degree and then never return.
“This state is second to last in the percentage of babies that get mandatory hearing screenings in hospitals because we are not producing enough clinicians for our population,” Sinclair said. “That’s just outrageous.”
“When you consider how wealthy this state is, there is just no excuse for it,” he said.
Sinclair said that for many years there have been discussions about other kinds of professional doctorates in the CSU, but education, audiology and physical therapy are the ones that have made the most compelling case, along with some sense of urgency.
“There are many changes going on in the American work force that are requiring a higher level of preparation,” Sinclair said.
“We are going to negotiate with the UC in good faith with the expectation that they will respond with the 2007 deadline,” Sinclair said. “If the UC is unwilling to move forward on the joint doctorate in audiology, we will be back in the Legislature with a new bill.”