Beyond The Master Plan: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California

Organization: Geiser, S. & Atkinson, R.C. Center for Studies in Higher Education.

The single most critical factor for California to improve B.A. attainment is to expand 4-year enrollment capacity. Yet building expensive new 4-year campuses is an unlikely option given the state’s current and foreseeable fiscal circumstances. The alternative is to restructure California’s existing postsecondary system. The paper reviews a variety of baccalaureate reform models that have been introduced in other states. The most promising of these models involve collaborations between community colleges and state universities to create new kinds of intermediary, "hybrid" institutions. Examples include university centers and 2-year university branch campuses. Under the university center model, 4-year universities offer upper-division coursework at community college campuses, enabling “place bound” students to complete their baccalaureate degree program there. Under the 2-year university branch model, some community colleges are converted, in effect, into lower-division satellites of state universities, thereby expanding capacity at the 4-year level and eliminating the need for the traditional transfer process. What these and other hybrid models have in common is that they help bridge the divide between 2-year and 4-year institutions, enabling more students to enter baccalaureate programs directly from high school and progress seamlessly to their degrees. Amending the Master Plan in the manner proposed here need not alter its essential features. While preserving the distinctive missions of UC, CSU, and the California Community Colleges, the need now is to build their capacity to work together as a system to improve baccalaureate attainment – the one mission that all three segments share.


Geiser, S. & Atkinson, R.C. (2010). Beyond The Master Plan: The Case for Restructuring Baccalaureate Education in California.