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A student works in a laboratory at SDSU's School of Public Health. The signing of SB 684 enables SDSU to add the DrPH as part of the university’s academic degree offerings. A student works in a laboratory at SDSU's School of Public Health. The signing of SB 684 enables SDSU to add the DrPH as part of the university’s academic degree offerings.

Newsom Signs Bill Allowing SDSU, Other CSUs to Offer DrPH Programs

Sen. Ben Hueso authored the bill, which authorizes the California State University system to award the Doctor of Public Health degree.
By SDSU News Team

This article first published on SDSU Newscenter Oct. 4, 2022.


As San Diego State University has long advocated for independent doctorates, a welcome development came on on Friday, Sept. 30. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 684. The bill allows California State University (CSU) campuses to offer independent Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs.

Sen. Ben Hueso authored SB 684. Moving forward, SDSU will be able to add the DrPH as part of the university’s vast academic degree offerings. The university will soon begin the formal process for program development, which will require institutional and CSU approvals, with the expectation that the program could be offered as early as the 2023-2024 academic year. 

“SDSU has long argued that independent doctorates are our future. This new legislation is a step towards that, and will allow us to meet a critical workforce need,” said SDSU President Adela de la Torre, who has for years led discussions about the need to expand independent doctorate options at SDSU as well as the CSU. 

SDSU, and other CSU campuses, are not broadly authorized to confer doctoral degrees independently, and instead are required by state law to partner with other institutions, like private universities or those within the University of California system. This decades-old rule was established through California’s 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education. SB 684 makes an exception to this requirement for DrPH degrees. 

“The California workforce has changed dramatically since the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education was authored,” de la Torre said. “It makes little sense to still require that the state's largest and most diverse university system go through a legislative approval process for each and every new workforce degree at this level.” 

Newsom in a news release said: “California is increasing resources, adding services, and advancing equity to boost graduation and transfer rates throughout our higher education systems. Thanks to the Legislature’s leadership, we’re building on my Administration’s efforts to ensure all of our students are well-equipped to succeed and prepared for California’s future.”

Signatures for Change

SDSU received letters of support from nearly every county of public health in the state, de la Torre said. The university also received letters from those representing hospital systems, from major health networks and nonprofit organizations. 

“The signing of Senate Bill 684 is a clear win for public health in California and our region,” said Nick Macchione, director of San Diego County’s Health and Human Resources Agency. “The ability to train a new generation of leaders to address the community public health workforce needs of California will be transformative in our ongoing efforts to better service California’s diverse communities.”

De la Torre also said SDSU’s School of Public Health has an “extraordinary reputation” and nationally renowned faculty who have and continue to actively address issues of public health concerns. 

“Employers across the state recognized this and advocated for us to be able to address this gap in trained public health professionals,” she said. “This legislation now allows us, independently, to do what we are known for in San Diego: prepare diverse students and professionals with the skills they need to effectively serve our community."

SDSU School of Public health initiatives include addressing health disparities, rates of sexually-transmitted diseases, the presence of thirdhand smoke in homes and businesses, and efforts to reduce substance abuse, among many other initiatives in the U.S. and abroad.

"Being able to provide a DrPH will open doors to future generations of public health leaders and visionaries, who will collaborate with partners across systems and generate evidence-based practice and policy,” said Eyal Oren, director of the School of Public Health. 

Supporting SDSU’s Path to R1

The new legislation comes at a time when SDSU is seeing significant advancements in student success, research, innovation and development – all important as the university seeks to advance to the next and more competitive research intensive institution: R1 status. 

“This legislation is the sign of our state moving in the right direction for our students and for the communities we serve,” said Hala Madanat, Vice President for Research and Innovation. “This new legislation unlocks opportunities for social mobility for our students and for our public health faculty and researchers to innovate in ways that will directly benefit society.”

In 2022, SDSU received $164.5 million in research funding, an amount reflective of its growing appeal nationwide for innovation. 

SDSU also received a record of more than $133.2 million in gift commitments in the 2020-21 fiscal year. The total marks an increase of roughly 5% from the previous year, and the new high represented a third consecutive year of growth in giving to SDSU – which significantly benefits students and faculty, including research programs and scholarships.

Underrepresented minority students comprise nearly 40 percent of those enrolled in SDSU’s graduate-level programs and 62 percent are women – and this level of diversity in graduate programs is rare nationally, Madanat said. Also, 60% remain in San Diego as working professionals, with a larger percentage staying in California. Further, SDSU sponsors the second-largest number of Fulbright scholars in the state, making the institution highly competitive with University of California schools. 

“We are incredibly grateful to both Gov. Newsom and Sen. Hueso for their continued support of our university and our vision to address our community's needs through advanced educational training,” de la Torre said. “This legislation also supports SDSU’s strategic priority toward being a Research I institution, a designation that will significantly benefit our rapidly evolving research enterprise.”