Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
Higher Education Government Relations Conference
“Making the Case for Higher Education”
December 11, 2008
San Diego, CA

Thank you, Karen (Yelverton-Zamarripa).

We can all be gloomy, or we can be the optimist that California’s dismal fiscal atmosphere will all work out...

These are terrible financial times for higher education specifically, and for the entire country’s economy, in general. This state is in a mess financially. I wonder if California is governable?

According to an article this week in the Sacramento Bee, forty (40) states are in budget trouble. Combined, their budget deficits total $48 billion dollars. There is real pain out there.

Unfortunately, California tops everyone with a current $11.2 billion deficit now and a projected $28 billion dollar deficit over the next 19 months. The current $11.2 billion dollar deficit represents an 11 percent share of the General Fund.

In comparison, New York’s $6.4 billion dollar deficit represents 11.4 percent of that state’s General Fund. And Florida’s $5.1 billion dollar deficit represents 19.9 percent of that state’s General Fund. So they are in worse shape, percentage-wise.

California’s deficit is not good for higher education at all. We are in the discretionary part of the state budget, which means we compete with prisons, among other entities.

The federal government can print money, but the states need to balance their budgets with cuts and revenue increases.

Higher education has what everyone needs and wants. All value what we provide to the economy: workforce, innovation, healthy communities.

A November survey released by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) showed that Californians have high regards for the quality of education at the California State University, the University of California and the community colleges. But those high regards won’t help our budgets.

People can like us all they want, but if they don’t want to pay higher taxes or they don’t want us to raise student fees, it will not help us educate students or produce the workforce that is needed for this state. And providing the skilled workforce is what our systems do very well.

That is why we must convince the public to convince our state Legislature and Governor that they must invest in higher education if they want this state – and for that matter, all states – to prosper in the future.

Another PPIC released this week showed that California will have an alarming lack of residents with bachelor’s degrees by 2025 if we continue going the way we are going. That might seem like a long time away, but in reality it is not, when you are talking about graduating and training the next workforce.

The report points to the need to find ways to invest in education that feed workforce development. Author Deborah Reed (no relation to me) wrote: “California’s fiscal emergency is keeping leaders focused on the immediate future. It’s important for leaders to end the crisis soon so that they can begin to focus on the long-term needs of the state and its workers.”

By failing to invest in our three systems, California is throwing away its future.

What kind of California do we want?

The people most educated in this state are the 50 to 64-year-olds, and most likely all of them will be retired by 2025.

Taking their place will be our growing Latino population – they now represent 29 percent of California’s workers, and by 2025 they will be at 40 percent. The problem is that in 2006 only 10 percent had bachelor’s degrees. It is projected that only 12 percent of Latinos will have them by 2020.

That is our dilemma – we are doing more outreach than ever to that population just as our universities and community colleges have to cut back on enrollment because of lack of funding.

It is shortsighted of this state’s leaders to let that happen. This state has been envied for nearly 50 years for its Master Plan for Higher Education, and we are letting it spiral down the drain.

So what do we do?

One: Work harder at what we did last year – have the three systems come together as one team to fight for higher education. Our working together last year helped convince the Governor and Legislature not to cut us as badly as other parts of state government.

We cannot be competitive – we must be cooperative.

Two: Really stress what we mean to this state’s workforce and economy. The CSU, for example, returns $4.41 for every dollar the state invests in us. Numbers are similar for UC and the community colleges. Let’s develop strong messages around those numbers. We are a vital part of any economic stimulus package – let’s get more capital projects going so that we can help get the economy moving forward.

Three: CSU graduates 92,000 educated people into the workforce annually. They are the teachers, engineers, nurses, computer scientists, etc., who have the jobs that pay the taxes which can help increase our economic output. Let’s get them and UC and community college alumni more directly involved in our advocacy efforts.

Four: Continue the outreach to the underserved population, the students of color who are the future workforce of this state. We may be in bad times, but it will be worse if we fail to get out of our comfort zones and get into the communities of color and (a) get them ready for college; (b) into college; (c) out of college; and (d) into the workforce.

Five: Finally, let’s turn the spotlight on ourselves. Frankly, we need to be more efficient at everything we do. The national Voluntary System of Accountability that CSU has joined – and which Mark has said UC will look at– shows our graduation rates, degrees awarded, financial aid, fees, loan debts and salaries of our graduates. That is a good step forward to being transparent to our publics, taxpayers and voters.

We also are far too slow at adopting technology – we must have more online classes and opportunities for our students who are far ahead of us educators when it comes to adopting new things. We need more online textbooks so we don’t keep adding to their cost of education.

If we don’t do these things, we will continue to look like dinosaurs compared to our students.

In summary, the time for talking is passed. We all know what needs to be done. We just need to move quickly and do it. This is the time for action. We need to stand up and show our value.

Let me repeat what I said earlier: What kind of California do we want?

Thank you.