State Senate Bill 724, which would allow the California State University to award independent doctorates, was amended by the Assembly Committee on Higher Education on July 5.
According to Wendy Gordon, press secretary for Sen. Jack Scott, the bill’s author, the University of California originally opposed SB 724.
“(The UC was) opposed to it because of the way the bill was first written in the winter,” Gordon said. “It included a clinical doctorate in audiology, physical therapy and education.”
According to Dorena Knepper, director of governmental affairs at CSUN, it was necessary to drop the clinical doctorates in audiology and physical therapy from the bill to focus solely on the education doctorate to get passage in committee.
“The only thing left in the bill is the education doctorate,” Knepper said. “This does not mean that (the CSUs) cannot continue their current programs.”
According to Gordon, the UC also opposed the bill because the California Master Plan for Higher Education stipulates that only UCs can award doctorate degrees, and the CSUs can only award bachelor and master’s degrees.
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.
“The UCs opposed (the bill) because they believed that they were mandated to give doctorates and no one else,” Gordon said. “They believed that SB 724 is an exception to the Master Plan.”
According to Gordon, Sen. Scott does not believe that the bill is a threat to institutions that offer doctorates.
“Our position is that this bill is not a threat to the historic role of the UC system,” Gordon said. ” The bill will provide additional career opportunities to those seeking doctorates.”
Gordon said the CSU has battled with the UC to offer their own doctorate programs, even though joint doctorates have been available since 1965.
“This will be the first time that the CSU will offer doctorates independently,” Gordon said. “So in this sense, it is ground breaking.”
If passed, an aspect of the bill that will continue to be debated is the cost of doctorate programs at CSUs.
According to the existing summary of the bill, the funding for the doctoral programs will be provided through the CSU’s planned annual enrollment growth of 2.5 percent. Students in the doctorate program will not be charged more than students pursuing doctoral degrees at the UC system.
According to Bruce Hamlett, chief consultant with the Assembly of Higher Education Committee, the cost of doctorate programs will be higher than existing graduate fees at the public university level.
“The cost will be at the public university level,” Hamlett said. “It will be higher than existing graduate fees, but it will be less than those fees at private institutions.”
Knepper said students would have to pay whatever the UC charges, and the CSUs would have to charge the same.
“It would not be fair if we would be authorized to charge less than the fees at the UC.”
According to Knepper, the CSU has not asked for additional money to fund the program. Instead, the CSU plans to use internal funds to start the doctoral program.
If passed, the bill will include all 23 CSU campuses, but individual campuses would be able to decide whether they want to offer doctorates, Knepper said.
The bill will be voted on by the State Senate Sept. 9.
Rosario Mendoza can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.