State Highlights

WICHE and California

Partnering for Six Decades
Year joined: 
1955

Benefits.

► Tens of thousands of students from California have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, California students and their families have saved $998.2 million since 1997, when the state began participating. 

► California has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► California has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on investment.

► In 2016-17 California, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in over $180 million through WICHE and spent $145,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 1,245-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, California students’ savings from WUE alone have topped $687.8 million, yielding a 1,013-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.
Student Savings
Student Savings WUE: 
$170,407,368
Student Savings WRGP: 
$8,267,720
Student Savings Total: 
$178,675,088
PSEP Revenue: 
$1,863,307
Grand Total: 
$180,538,395

Programs and Participation.

California is active in two of the three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2016-17 California’s students and families saved over $178.6 million. California saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. California students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond California’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1997. In 2016-17, 17,515 students from California are enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving over $170.4 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $9,729. In the last 10 years, students have saved $944.9 million.

California benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. California’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in California after graduating. In 2016-17 California received 719 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. California receives professional students through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP). In 2016-17 it received 90 PSEP students and $1.86 million in support fees.

Western Regional Graduate Program. California’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to 400 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 59 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2016-17 California sent 556 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 2017.

Interstate Passport is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.

WICHE’s Added Value.

California gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development.

One of WICHE’s most widely known publications is the Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates series, which for almost 40 years has provided strategic data about how high school graduates are likely to change in the years ahead. The 9th edition of Knocking at the College Door, released in December 2016, describes how the nation has entered a decade of stabilization in the number of high school graduates, with substantial contraction in the number of White high school graduates and rapid increases of non-White populations. After about 2025, the nation and most states will produce fewer high school graduates than in recent years, due to a recent “baby bust”. The WICHE region will generally track the national trend, but it will be less impacted by the contraction of White youth and more influenced by a projected 20 percent increase of Hispanic high school graduates through 2024 and then decrease by about the same amount between 2025 and 2032.

There is an abundance of information on knocking.wiche.edu, including the publication and other reports, projections data, interactive data dashboards, recorded webinars and presentations, and California’s state profile, which indicates that:

  • California is the #1 highest producer of high school graduates nationally, with 426,400 high school graduates per year, on average, between school years 2012 and 2032. However, California is projected to have an overall decrease in the size of its graduating class of 14% by 2032, declining to 394,1000 graduates.
  • Non-White public high school graduates are already 69% of all of California’s public high school graduates, and will increase to 74% of the total by 2032, even though the number of Hispanic graduates will decline by 52,000 (12%).

California has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio.

WICHE was asked by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office for its counsel on how to help the state address proposed cuts to financial aid programs. Staff also served as an expert resource at a Public Policy Institute of California meeting, addressing the changes necessary in the wake of Governor Brown’s decision to defund the California Postsecondary Education Commission, with the goal of ensuring that CPEC’s data collection was not lost. Staff discussed how to move California’s efforts to link data statewide and across segments forward and provided a brief report of what other states are doing in terms of statewide data governance. In addition, WICHE President David Longanecker worked with the Legislative Analyst’s Office on state governance and testified before legislators on university presidents’ compensation systems.

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, was an 800-member learning network that united organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities included an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE became national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education.

Additionally, the California State University (CSU) System; CSU Fresno; CSU Fullerton; CSU Long Beach; CSU Northridge; CSU San Diego; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Sonoma State University; and the University of California, San Diego are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), the chief academic leaders of the four-year institutions and their related system and state agencies, who address regional higher education issues, and engage in resource sharing The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance) brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Cerritos College, and Modesto Junior College are members. The Forum and the Alliance held a joint annual meeting in 2016 in Missoula, Mt. The 2017 Forum annual meeting is in Salt Lake City, while Long Beach, CA, is the location of the 2017 Alliance meeting.

Technology.

Several California colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health.

The WICHE Mental Health Program has been minimally active in California over the past several years. During FY13, WICHE facilitated a learning community of providers engaged in integrated behavioral and primary healthcare, while in FY15 we conducted trainings around improved community-based services to veterans in Truckee. In June 2015, WICHE facilitated a provider training focused on suicide prevention at the annual conference of the California Rural Indian Health Board.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. California is not yet a member of SARA.

Other Initiatives.

The Master Property Program (MPP) helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact in 1994 and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 160 campuses with total insured values of over $103 million. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. California Institute of Technology, Fresno Pacific University, Southwestern Law School, and the University of South Los Angeles are participants in MHECare. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardward and software products and services.

Former commissioners

Linda Thor, chancellor, Foothill-De Anza Community College District; Michael Kirst, president, State Board of Education; Roy Ashburn, board member, California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, Sacramento; Jim Silva, assembly member, Huntington Beach; Francisco J. Hernandez, vice chancellor for students, University of Hawai'i at Manoa and former vice chancellor of the University of California, Santa Cruz; Herbert A. Medina, professor at Loyola Marymount University; Robert Moore, former California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) executive director; Warren Fox, former CPEC executive director; Judith Chambers, special assistant to the vice president of university advancement, the University of the Pacific; Richard Hovannisian, professor emeritus, History Department, UCLA; Ellen F. Wright, principal, Wright Consulting, and former member of the CPEC; Diane Vines, associate professor, University of Portland School of Nursing, and former vice president for academic development at the California State University Institute; and Charles Lindahl, associate vice chancellor emeritus, the California State University.