Bill to increase UC accountability

The state Legislature is considering a proposal that would require significantly increased accountability from California’s public higher education institutions.

The bill, proposed on Jan. 27, calls for the creation of a statewide accountability structure to assess the performance of universities based on policy goals developed by lawmakers.

“California does not have a process in place at the state level for overall accountability and how well higher education is responding to state goals and priorities,” said Bruce Hamlett, chief consultant for the Assembly’s higher education committee.

The bill was originally written by Assemblywoman Carol Liu (D — La Cañada Flintridge), chair of the higher education committee. Her office did not return calls seeking comment.

Liu created the proposal after the release of an initial report from the National Commission on Accountability in Higher Education, according to a statement released by her office. She serves as a member of the organization, first created last February by the State Higher Education Executive Office and funded by the Ford Foundation. The commission is chaired by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and former South Carolina Gov. Richard W. Riley.

A final report from the commission is expected on March 10.

Her bill will repeal three sections of the Education Code but will also add three subsequent sections.

Under the proposal, the state’s higher education goals would relate to “educational opportunity, preparation, student success, public benefits and cost effectiveness,” the bill states.

The university is still in the process of “evaluating the specifics” of the recent bill but has expressed its initial support of the idea, according to UC Office of the President spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina.

“In general, the University of California supports the framework of a California postsecondary education accountability structure, especially one where the higher education segments agree upon the most relevant objectives and indicators,” Poorsina stated in an e-mail.

The university also supports the important role the bill gives to the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which requires it “to collect information, maintain a comprehensive database and publish reports on the condition of the postsecondary educational system,” she stated.

Currently, UC, CSU and community college campuses must compile reports for the Legislature on performance on what Section 99181 of the Education Code calls a “regular basis.”

In addition, under the current accountability program, the CPEC must submit annual progress reports to the Legislature and the governor.

The bill, if passed, will require the CPEC to report only biannually, but with increased specificity regarding certain educational and fiscal objectives.

California currently ranks 46th out of the 50 states in the number of students who gain bachelor’s degrees after six years of college, according to Hamlett. Increasing the six-year graduation rate is among the goals the bill would address, he said.

“If we don’t do anything to increase the number of students who complete baccalaureate programs, how will we expect to keep competing in the global economy?” Hamlett said.

Liu drafted the bill following the creation of the SHEEO’s accountability commission, which supports the idea of greater accountability in higher education institutions in order for students to receive adequate preparation for the workforce.

In a Jan. 24 speech delivered to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, SHEEO Executive Director Paul Lingenfelter addressed job concerns, citing the outsourcing of science and technology research occupations as a problem that needs to be remedied. According to Lingenfelter, 38 percent of individuals with Ph.D.s in science and technology in the United States come from outside the country.

Lingenfelter said he sees greater accountability in education as a way to help students fill such positions and provide a source of research.

“We have great higher education systems, but the bar has been raised due to changes in the world and the global economy,” Lingenfelter said in a later interview. “The standards of achievement in higher education are much higher.”