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Lars Walton

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California Master Plan (1960-2011)

Posted: 07/01/11 08:30 PM ET

The California Master Plan was born in Sacramento in the spring of 1960, the loving creation of Governor Pat Brown and University of California President Clark Kerr. The Plan lived a full and vibrant life, passing quietly in its sleep on June 30, in a Shakespearean twist of tragedy, dying from a wound inflicted by the signature of its creator's son, Governor Jerry Brown and the passage of the California State Budget.

In more than a half century of a full life, the Master Plan saw the great expansion of access to higher education for multiple generations of Californians. Serving as a model of higher education internationally, the Master Plan attracted industry, academic talent and students from around the world. During its time, 47 University of California faculty members received a Nobel Prize, 2.5 million students graduated from the California State University system and Community Colleges educated fully three-quarters of California's GI Bill Veterans.

In its early years, the Plan represented a new promise to millions of Californians who had never dreamed of a college education. This access provided a steady stream of intellectual capital to grow the Silicon Valley, the Southern California medical device industry and the agriculture science intensive Central Valley, serving the people of California well. Later in life the Plan suffered a number of budget ailments, once in the mid-1990s and twice in the last ten years of life. Ultimately, the final budget reductions proved too tough to overcome, crushing the last breaths of life out of it, with nearly $2 billion in cuts to the once golden plan.

The loss of the Master Plan will leave a major void in the State of California. It is expected that the State will experience a shortage of 1 million college graduates by 2025. Without the Master Plan, students will now experience sharp increases in tuition as well as reductions to access and quality of instruction. The loss of dependable funding for the three systems of higher education is expected to put new strains on the criminal justice and social welfare systems. A 2005 study by the University of California, Berkeley demonstrated that for every state dollar invested in higher education, California saves three dollars in corrections and state social services.

Clark Kerr, one of the creators of the California Master Plan, was quoted shortly after its creation as saying,


The Master Plan has been called 'The California Dream'... We were not dreaming the California Dream... we were more trying to escape the nightmare that was otherwise facing us.

It appears now that California sits at the precipice of that nightmare.

The California Master Plan is survived by 10 University of California campuses, 23 California State Universities and 109 California Community Colleges. The State of California kindly requests in lieu of flowers and in remembrance of fifty-plus years of service to the people of California, donations be made to local scholarship funds.