New State Law Allows SDSU, Other CSU Campuses to Offer Independent Doctoral Degrees

San Diego State University is quiet and nearly deserted while classes are not in session.
San Diego State University. Photo by Chris Stone

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that permits universities in the California State University system, including San Diego State University, to now offer independent professional and applied doctoral degrees. 

The signing of AB 656 is a welcome development, according to San Diego State officials, who have long advocated for independent doctorates. 

“This is a revolutionary change for our system and for SDSU, and signals state-level support for our mission and priorities attached to student success, inclusion, diversifying the workforce, as well as innovations in teaching, research and learning,” said President Adela de la Torre. “The educational and social-mobility opportunities this will provide Californians eager to become part of tomorrow’s advanced workforce is unprecedented.”

San Diego State, like other CSU campuses, was not broadly authorized to confer doctoral degrees independently, and instead have been required by state law to partner with other institutions, like private universities or those within the University of California system. 

In fall 2022, Gov. Newsom signed into law SB 684, allowing CSU campuses to offer independent Doctor of Public Health programs.

With the signing of AB 656, SDSU will continue its joint doctoral degree programs with various partner universities, but will now have the ability to expand its doctoral degree offerings by developing new professional and applied doctorate programs that will be independently offered by SDSU.  

“I hear regularly from major industry partners, here in San Diego, and throughout the region, of the need for skilled and trained professionals to address California’s growing workforce needs,” said Hala Madanat, SDSU Vice President for Research and Innovation.

“AB 656 is a monumental leap forward for SDSU, the CSU as a whole, the students we serve and the industry and community leaders who we are fortunate to call partners,” she said.