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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Center for Studies in Higher Education is a research and policy center on higher education oriented to California, the nation, and comparative international issues. It promotes discussion among university leaders, government officials, academics and all those interested in higher education policy. It assists policy making by providing a neutral forum for airing contentious issues and by keeping the higher education world informed of new initiatives and proposals. Likewise, the research conducted at the Center aims to inform current debate about higher education policy and practice. Founded in 1956 it was the first higher education center of this kind in the United States. Currently it has an especially strong interest in public policy aimed at improving higher education in California and developing a strategic perspective on the future of the University of California.

Cover page of BERKELEY VERSUS THE SAT Regent, a Chancellor and a Debate on the Value ofStandardized Testing in Admissions

BERKELEY VERSUS THE SAT Regent, a Chancellor and a Debate on the Value ofStandardized Testing in Admissions


The following essay details a debate between UC Berkeley and a Regent who made charges of discrimination against Asian-American students that are similar to the current legal challenges facing Harvard University. The crux of such charges: onaverage, that one racial or ethnic group is more “qualified” than other groups, often underrepresented minorities, yet they havelower admissions rates. In 2004, Regent John Moores, convinced of discriminatory practices toward Asian-American students inthe admissions process at Berkeley, did his own analysis of UC admissions data focused on SAT scores and that he publicizedin the LA Times and other venues. Moores claimed his investigation provided clear evidence of discrimination. In the aftermath of California’s Proposition 209 barring the use of race in admissions, Moores complained that Berkeley’s adoption of a “holistic” review of applications reduced the importance of test scores by elevating subjective "measurements" that served as possiblyillegal proxies for race and ethnicity. Conjuring memories of charges of discrimination in the 1980s by the Asian-American community regarding Berkeley’s admissions processes, Moores asked, “How did the university get away with discriminating soblatantly against Asians?” For anti-affirmative action advocates, like Moores, standardized test scores were, and are, seen as the gold standard of academic ability since it is a “universal” measure unlike grades that are local assessments of abilities andsubject to grade inflation. However, when compared to grades in high school, test scores have proven weak indicators ofsubsequent academic success at highly selective universities that must choose among a large pool of highly qualified students.Test scores also are not necessarily good measures for predicting the future engagement of students in the wide range of experiences and opportunities offered by major universities – including public service, undergraduate research, and co-curricularactivities. Anti-affirmative action advocates largely see admissions as a reward based on test scores and are not terriblyconcerned with the predictive validity of other admissions criteria. This essay concludes with a brief discussion of the similarities of Moores’ analysis and charge of discrimination in admissions with that at Harvard, and the probable legal path toward a new Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.




Although writing is well established as a high-impact educational practice, scaling that practice is challenging. Writing is a modeof engaged learning, and teaching it requires providing careful attention informed by expertise. These conditions are labor-intensive and expensive, even as public universities are hardly awash in funds. Writing skills develop over time as a function ofencountering challenges and being coached on addressing them. What counts as “good” writing varies according to context,target readership, and purpose. Students need to build a repertory of strategies and experiences, along with the executivefunctions to know when to access what. They acquire this repertory by writing: doing it, not simply being told about it, andreceiving feedback and advice. Technologies cannot currently or foreseeably provide feedback of sufficient quality to solveproblems of scale. Writing Across the Curriculum programs can supplement first year writing courses, even replace some ofthem—but only if accompanied by sustained professional development that includes thorough knowledge of effective writingpedagogies, knowledge bolstered by existing research, theory, and best practices. New faculty models that feature full-time,benefited continuing lecturers or teaching professors exist at many universities, private and public; these models are more cost-effective than tenure-line faculty owing to enrollments. Even when they’re more expensive than adjuncts, these models’ return inquality is profound. The bottom line is that, even with cost ceilings, it’s possible to scale quality writing instruction, howeverincrementally. At least minimally, this requires faculty writing specialists who can work directly with disciplinary faculty and whocan ensure that anyone teaching writing is doing so in well-designed courses, using effective and efficient pedagogies. Writingcenters are vital in supporting these efforts. Permanent, professional writing faculties, in new kinds of faculty roles, offer thegreatest promise, albeit at greater costs.

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Cover page of Undergraduate Education, Best Practices, Leadership, University of Southern California

Undergraduate Education, Best Practices, Leadership, University of Southern California


The University of Southern California (USC) transformed its undergraduate education program by making it a top priority in its strategic plans for the last two decades. The undergraduate experience was thoroughly studied and findings were used to determine what needed to be changed to improve the educational experience for students in and outside of the classroom. The institution has spent over $1.5B to hire new faculty to teach undergraduates, construct new residential colleges and renovate older ones (all led by tenured faculty), and build a new health center, campus center, and spaces in the USC College and professional schools dedicated to undergraduate academic programs, support services, and co-curricular programs. The key to the transformation was leadership provided by its late President Steven B. Sample and the university leaders he recruited to take on this big challenge. The team was focused and empowered to make administrative and academic changes, in concert with deans and faculty leaders, and given resources to turn thoughts, dreams and hopes into reality. The results are clear and demonstrate that institutions can improve undergraduate education by making it a high priority, allocating resources to recruit and hire outstanding faculty, and expand and improve programs, activities and facilities that directly serve undergraduates.





Despite massive cuts in state funding over the past thirty years, the University of California has managed to keep enrollment on pace with growth in population.  With California’s population projected to grow 22.5 percent (from 40 to 49 million by 2040), that will no longer be the case, unless UC is able to find a new funding model. Informed by the historical analysis in the report Approaching a Tipping Point: A History and Prospectus of Funding for the University of California, this essay revisits the options for funding UC from that report, including: reinvestment by California lawmakers and a proposed general bond measure for capital construction; increasing research funding to help subsidize teaching and public service programs; revising the indirect-cost agreement with the State of California; raising undergraduate tuition and fees for upper income students and establishing tuition pricing model tiered by student family income; explore differential fees by major; and reducing the percentage of UC undergraduate tuition income that is “returned-to-aid” in favor of increased fundraising for financial aid. All relate to two central questions: a) can UC afford to grow in its enrollment and academic programs with the state’s population and needs? and b) how to identify new sources of revenue and pursue management efficiencies to reduce operating and capital costs? Without a substantial boost in income from the state or other sources, UC may be approaching a crossroads, where it continues to grow in enrollment without adequate funding, or where it instead chooses to halt or limit growth to focus on maintaining quality and productivity, but with serious consequences for California. Any significant state reinvestment will depend on the new California governor. Governors in the past have been key players in creating and building California’s pioneering higher education system.  A new governor should have ambitions for higher education that match those of Californians. 

Cover page of Research University Spaces: The Multiple Purposes of an Undergraduate Education

Research University Spaces: The Multiple Purposes of an Undergraduate Education


Students, faculty, and the public expect undergraduate education in research universities to contribute to multiple developmental purposes.   While academic purposes remain pre-eminent, a singular focus on knowledge and skills development is no longer adequate. Based on data and analysis from the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) Undergraduate Survey, this essay identifies and discusses five widely endorsed purposes of student development during the college years: social, personal, academic, civic, and economic.  It also identifies the characteristics of classroom and extra-curricular settings that contribute to the achievement of these purposes.  In turn, the resulting SPACES model provides a theoretical framework for SERU intended to guide future survey design and research.




What are the benefits and costs of attending a selective public research university instead of a less-selective university or college?This study examines the 2001-2011 Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program, which guaranteed University of Californiaadmission to students in the top four percent of California high school classes. Employing a regression discontinuity design, Iestimate that ELC pulled 8 percent of marginally-admitted students into four "Absorbing'' UC campuses from less-competitivepublic institutions in California. Those ELC compliers had lower SAT scores and family incomes than their eventual peers; almosthalf were under-represented minorities (URM), and 65 percent came from the state's bottom SAT quartile of high schools.Nevertheless, marginally eligible students became more than 20 percentage points more likely to earn a university degree within5 years, though URM and less-prepared students became less likely to earn STEM degrees. Students' net expected earningsconditional on university completion, major, and gender substantially increased across subgroups, and linked state employmentrecords suggest an increase in URM students' average early-career earnings.




Effective education at the tertiary level is one of the key conditions for the development of modern economies; it also has a substantial impact on social development. Nowadays, higher education institutions all over the world are facing numerous challenges, some of them global (e.g. funding), others local (e.g. demographic trends). Universities are seeking new ways of dealing with the challenges; however, they often resort to methods that seem to do more harm than good by moving the emphasis from long-term objectives to short-term ones. In marketing literature, a new concept of Service-Dominant Logic (SDL) is proposed as an alternative approach to traditional and outdated marketing theories applied to the higher education sector. Its foundational premise of value co-creation seems to be of particular relevance here as it assumes that various groups of actors jointly create the academic experience. This paper focuses on the higher education sector in Poland and investigates the attitudes of Polish students towards value co-creation and their consequences for the academic experience. The study leads to the identification of value co-creation styles among students reflected by five segments: Maximalists, Minimalists, the Scrupulous, the Networking-Oriented and the Intellectuals and presents their detailed characteristics.