Campus: CSU Fresno -- November 12, 2001
Valley Residents Support Changes In Statewide Higher Education
A recent survey of Central California residents shows that while many
are pleased with the overall quality of colleges and universities in the
region they think strategic changes in statewide educational policies
could benefit Valley citizens.
The survey of Central Californians in spring 2001 found most are open
to making changes in California's Master Plan for Higher Education, which
calls for strict division of functions between the University of California,
the California State University and community colleges.
The survey was conducted by the California State University, Fresno Consortium
for Social and Economic Research Centers (CSERC).
"The public cares less about the rules and regulations of the 'Master
Plan' than it does about high quality, accessible higher education,"
said Dr. Fred Evans, dean of the Craig School of Business at Fresno State
and author of the research report.
"Our survey is highly significant because of the size of the survey
sample and the range of the survey," Evans said. The survey was conducted
among more than 700 randomly selected residents in Fresno, Kings, Madera
and Tulare counties.
In two key findings, 93 percent of Central San Joaquin Valley residents
who had an opinion on the issue favored offering doctorate degrees at
Fresno State. The state's Master Plan for Higher Education does not allow
CSU campuses to offer the doctorate degree. The survey also indicated
that there was similar public support for offering UC-level programs at
There was also strong public support for the development of a new University
of California campus in the San Joaquin Valley, with 88 percent of respondents
agreeing that a Valley UC campus is needed. The cost of the campus, however,
is a concern, with 87 percent agreeing that "the cost to the taxpayer
of building the University of California, Merced is an important consideration."
And 91 percent of Valley residents supported offering University of California
programs and degrees on the Fresno State campus if substantial savings
Evans said that residents who have an opinion on higher education in the
region have a very positive view of Valley colleges and universities.
He notes, however, that a substantial minority of the population is unable
to make a judgment about local higher education. The CSERC researchers
reported throughout their survey that many Valley residents were undecided
about educational issues in region.
"It speaks to the need to better inform the public about higher education,"
Evans said. "For example, our survey revealed that many San Joaquin
Valley people think attending public colleges and universities costs much
more than it actually does."
Other key findings of the report:
- Community colleges are the institution of choice for many students
and adults seeking to continue their education. Of those people surveyed,
46 percent thought the academic quality of Valley community colleges
was either above average or among the best.
- Valley residents said they had seen improvements in community colleges
over the past five years, with 53 percent reporting quality of the colleges
as improved and with approximately 11 percent indicating the campuses
were "much improved."
- Fresno State also did well in the survey, with 61 percent of Valley
residents reporting that the university's quality was either "one
of the best" or "somewhat above average."
- Nearly 70 percent of Valley residents reported that Fresno State's
academic quality had improved over the past five years, with 22 percent
indicating it was "much improved."
- Valley residents consistently overestimate the cost of attending a
CSU campus. Tuition and fees at Fresno State are just under $2,000 per
year; however, 76 percent of survey respondents believed the cost to
attend was over $2,000 or more per year. Nearly 32 percent believed
it cost more than $5,000 per year.
"Higher education in the Central Valley is held in remarkably high
regard," Evans said. "The community colleges are considered
to be of high quality and improving over time." He said Fresno State
is held in especially high regard, with over two thirds of Valley residents
surveyed indicating that academic quality has improved over the past five