There has been some movement in our efforts to promote greater statewide coordination as envisioned in The Road Ahead when AB 1348, sponsored by Speaker Emeritus Pérez, cleared the Senate Education Committee on a bipartisan 6-0 vote on June 25. The bill would replace the defunded California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) and create an oversight entity that would develop and monitor the state’s progress in reaching its degree attainment goals. With the primary functions of collecting and analyzing data, and developing and making policy recommendations (both programmatic and financial) about systemic higher education improvements, the proposed Higher Education Authority would assist state lawmakers by serving as a tool for increased state coordination, improved oversight and greater accountability.
In presenting the bill at the hearing, Assemblyman Pérez made the case that such an entity was necessary to meet our state level workforce and education needs, needs that could not be effectively addressed for the state by any individual segment. Citing several recent reports that have been released in support of increased oversight, he also noted that there was widespread support for the bill. Lande Ajose testified to California Competes’ support for the bill, with additional support coming from the Legislative Analyst’s Office and both the California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association. On the other hand, the higher education segments sent letters indicating “concerns” about the bill. The bill will be considered next in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which must endorse it by August 15 if the bill is to be enacted this year.
Aside from possible opposition from UC, three major sticking points confront the bill, including the questions of funding, authority, and whether the entity should be entirely new or essentially a conversion of another entity.
- Funding. CPEC was funded by state appropriations. The new Authority could also receive support from the general fund, but alternate funding models might also be explored, such as a nominal campus fee or even a funding model that would blend fees and an appropriation.
- Authority. The current version of the bill notes that the Higher Education Authority would include not only the publicly funded institutions but also private colleges and universities. The issue of how to ensure the Authority has appropriate jurisdiction to ensure data compliance, among other issues, will need to be addressed.
- New Entity? Finally, the governor’s support for an oversight entity could depend on how the third issue – an entirely new entity or a converted one – is addressed. The legislation anticipates that the Authority will consist of about 18 staff members costing approximately $2 million to operate, in part because of its significant data management responsibilities. To ensure maximum efficiency, the Governor will want to better understand the relationship of the Authority to the California Student Aid Commission.