Back to 2011 Issues



Other Budget Issues

Last Updated: 5/20/2011
Budget Issue: Eliminating California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC)
Program: California Postsecondary Education Commission
Finding or Recommendation: Modify Governor's 2011 May Revision proposal to eliminate CPEC by ensuring continuation of high priority coordination functions (such as data collection and analysis, and review of new academic programs and campuses) in some form. Options include transferring these functions to an existing department, reforming or replacing CPEC, or delaying elimination (see detailed narrative).
Further Detail

Options Related to Governor’s Proposal for CPEC


We believe there are several critical coordination functions necessary to protect the state’s investment in higher education. Examples include data collection and analysis, planning and oversight, and review of new program and campus proposals.  Some of these activities should be performed by an entity that is independent from higher education institutions.

CPEC’s coordination efforts have been somewhat ineffective in recent years. The Governor has proposed to eliminate CPEC. (This is part of a larger proposal to eliminate, consolidate, or reduce 43 boards, commissions, task forces, and offices.) The administration proposes to move management of a federal grant program from CPEC to CDE, and to permit the public higher education segments to perform the remaining coordination functions, such as planning, program and campus review, and data analysis, with no intersegmental coordination. We believe this would be akin to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Although CPEC’s performance of these functions has been problematic, the functions remain important and should be preserved in some form.


There are several options for addressing performance issues while maintaining important coordination functions.

Reform CPEC. In our 2010 report on higher education coordination we recommended as one option reforming CPEC. Specific reforms include:

  • Increase independence. Maintain independence from executive and legislative branch control to avoid partisan or ideological bias. Increase independence from higher education institutions by removing segment representation from the commission, replacing it with a high-level advisory board of segment representatives, and requiring the commission to consult with the advisory group. The California Education Round Table could potentially serve as the advisory body.
  • Revise commissioner appointment process. The diffuse nature of the current appointment process, while providing broad representation, has several drawbacks. A more concentrated appointment process and clearly established qualifications for commissioners could improve the balance, cohesiveness and ultimately the effectiveness of the commission.
  • Focus responsibilities and resources on shepherding public agenda. Current efforts in the Legislature to identify goals and priorities for higher education could provide needed focus to CPEC’s efforts. The Legislature may wish to modify CPEC’s statutory mission and authority to concentrate exclusively on advancing the state’s goals and facilitating statewide accountability efforts related to those goals. This could include an expanded role in advising policymakers on finance policies and other mechanisms to bring the segments’ performance in line with state priorities.
  • Develop comprehensive statewide data resource. Create a comprehensive statewide student data resource with enhanced research and analysis capabilities and linkages to other state systems. (Current legislative activity regarding formation of a JPA for intersegmental data acknowledges CPEC’s lack of effectiveness in this area.)

Replace CPEC. If the Legislature determines that needed reforms are not workable with the existing structure and leadership, it could eliminate CPEC and create a new coordinating body that meets the state’s needs for coordination.

Relocate CPEC Functions. Alternatively, the Legislature could relocate CPEC’s functions to an existing board or department. One candidate is the Department of Education, where the Governor has proposed to move CPEC’s federal grant management function. Although the Department concerns itself primarily with K-12 education, it has provided leadership in intersegmental K-16 efforts and could provide valuable coordination across educational levels.

A portion of CPEC’s funding and position authority could be transferred to the Department to perform the highest priority coordinating functions such as data collection and analysis and academic program review. The Department already manages extensive longitudinal data from school districts, and conducts compliance review and program evaluation. Co-locating K-12 and higher education data at the Department could provide the opportunity to link these data for state policy purposes.

Relocation of duties into an existing agency could be a temporary measure. In the future the state could develop a new coordinating entity for higher education, or one with broader purview including K-12 and the higher education segments, both public and private.

Enact Sunset for CPEC. Another alternative is to maintain CPEC for the time being and enact legislation to repeal its authority on a specified future date. This would create pressure to identify alternatives by that date. In our view, however, this action would serve only to postpone a decision and would not make resolution of an ongoing concern any more likely. Instead, we believe the current proposal provides an opportunity to address a problem that has been an ongoing concern for quite some time and has defied past executive and legislative attempts to resolve it.