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UC student leaders call for reform of Master Plan for Higher Education

By Laura Boranian

Feb. 4, 2014 1:29 a.m.

University of California student leaders passed a resolution Sunday calling for reform of the California Master Plan for Higher Education because they think it fails to accommodate for accessibility, racial and economic diversity, and advances in technology.

The master plan, created in 1960, provides guidelines for California universities to make it possible for all students to attend some form of higher education. The plan also sets numbers for university admission selections.

The UC Student Association, which represents student governments across the UC, suggested creating a survey committee to collect information and draft a new plan that contains student ideas and provides updated, long-term guidelines for education admissions.

The master plan originally promised a tuition-free education for qualified students. However, since instruction fees increased at UC and CSU schools to help make up for budget cuts, UCSA students said this part of the plan is no longer effective.

Kareem Aref, UCSA president, said the plan should be reformed to make higher education more affordable because rising tuition rates make college more inaccessible to many students.

Although the plan has been updated since its creation, an October report published by the Little Hoover Commission has since encouraged the design of a new plan. This commission is a state organization that investigates government operations and provides recommendations to improve them. They said that the plan should not only set goals for higher education, but also have a developed strategy to help students reach the goals.

Students said they want the master plan to accommodate more diversity on college campuses.

In fall 2013, there were 1,635 black students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs at UCLA, while the total enrollment was 42,190 students, according to a report. Students in UCSA said these statistics prove the university is not racially diverse.

The master plan dictates that the UC admits the top 12.5 percent academically of California high school students. UC student leaders said, however, that this does not address the goal of diversity because it focuses on improving academics rather than demographics.

Students also said in the resolution they think the master plan should provide more funding for K-12 education, specifically in disadvantaged regions. Underfunded elementary and high schools contribute to a lack of racial diversity at the UC, the students said.

To bring in more students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds to higher education, the UCSA resolution calls for more specific guidelines to focus on recruiting students from a variety of demographics.

At its most recent meeting, the UC Board of Regents also expressed concerns that the master plan is outdated because it does not take recent advances in technology into account.

For instance, University students have options to take classes online but they did not have these same options when the plan was constructed. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said online learning may create more affordable education in California.

Regent George Kieffer said the plan was designed to solve problems of a different time and economic era. Since students said the 1960 plan did not take into account drastic advances in technology or changing demographics in California, they said future planning should include these factors.

The original plan was meant to encourage students to enter higher education through community college and transfer to a four-year university later, but the resolution says that now there is a greater emphasis on students going straight to a four-year university.

The regents said there is not enough attention given to helping community college students transfer to the competitive UC. The Little Hoover Commission said some students who attend community college take too long to graduate from college because it is difficult to transfer courses.

Napolitano said the transfer process should be as streamlined and transparent as possible so students know how to transfer to a university and what kind of financial aid will be available to them. Some students may think they cannot afford a four-year university and may be discouraged from applying, Napolitano said.

Students said in the resolution that the creation of a new plan should be a priority because it will provide lasting effects on the commitment to higher education in California.

Compiled by Laura Boranian, Bruin contributor.

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