Wednesday, June 19

California Legislative Analyst’s Office urges creation of commission to oversee higher education

The Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report Friday urging policymakers to take steps to oversee the progress of higher education in California.

Currently, no such body watches over California’s higher education.

The California Postsecondary Education Commission ““ which collected data on students and colleges and put together objective analysis and recommendations for policymakers and the public, among other activities ““ shut down in October following a veto for its funding by Gov. Jerry Brown.

In his veto message, Brown said the commission was ineffective.

The LAO report offered recommendations to the legislature as to what should be done to oversee higher education.

Short term recommendations include using available state-wide data that the previous commission had collected to articulate specific goals for higher education and creating a temporary group formed by staff from the legislature, representatives from the Governor’s administration and independent researchers.

The group would then collect baseline data and set targets based on higher education’s progress towards the group’s established goals.

The LAO report also stressed that in the long term, California policymakers need to establish a formal, independent, oversight body with specific responsibilities.

Judy Heiman, who helped prepare the report, said that without oversight, higher education institutions are more likely to be driven by their own interests ““ not the interest of the public.

Oversight for the state’s higher education is also important due to the recent budget cuts, said Gary Orfield, UCLA professor of education, law, political science and urban planning.

He said there is no longer anybody following higher education on a state-wide basis.

“Taking away (the California Postsecondary Education Commission) abolished an important information source that had already been weakened by budget cuts,” Orfield said.

The Governor’s elimination of the California Postsecondary Education Commission earlier this year could pave the way to create a far more effective organization in the future, the LAO report stated.

Heiman said the previous commission on higher education had not been very effective in recent years, because of unclear goals and a lack of funding.

“They were trying to work with their hands tied behind their backs,” Heiman said.

A lack of an oversight commission may affect students by making it more difficult and confusing to transfer from one college to another because each institution must align the requirements to transfer on their own, said Steve Boilard, who prepared the report with Heiman.

Boilard added that the absence of an oversight body will lead to inefficiencies in the system that could undercut student services in the future.

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