Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Senate Select Committee On Admissions and Outreach
Hearing on Institutional Commitment to Equity and Diversity
Sacramento, CA
1/16/02

Senator Alarcón and members of this committee — Thank you for inviting me to this important hearing.

I want to begin by saying something I have believed for a long time, and I am more convinced of than ever since September 11.

There are few promises a government can make to its citizens that are more important than the promise of educational opportunity.

We all know that having an educated population is important to our state's economy. But education also offers the intangible benefits of knowledge, understanding, and perspective on our role as citizens and our relation to the outside world.

An educated society is a key component of democracy and freedom. It is only through education that we will be able to rise above the ignorance and intolerance that has caused so much pain and strife throughout the world.

I want to thank you for holding this hearing because educational opportunity is a critical and timely issue facing the people of California.

The California State University

The mission of the California State University is to provide access to a high-quality education for all eligible California students, some 390,000 this year and more than 400,000 next year. The 23-campus CSU has a special responsibility to serve as a teaching-centered institution with a focus on bachelor's and master's degree programs.

As directed by California's Master Plan for Higher education, the CSU draws its students from the top third of California's high school graduates. The CSU also gives admission priority to upper-division transfer students from California's community colleges. For every first-time freshman, we admit almost two community college transfer students. The CSU is the largest transfer university in the country.

Given that it reflects the population of the state of California, our university system is also one of the most diverse. The percentage of traditionally underrepresented students is almost 53 percent, more than twice the national average for four-year public colleges and universities.

About one in five students is the first in his or her family to attend college, and about 40 percent come from houses where English is not the primary language spoken.

The CSU has consistently been recognized as a national leader in awarding bachelor's degrees to underrepresented students. Black Issues in Higher Education has named 14 CSU campuses in its top 100 institutions conferring the most bachelor's degrees to minority students. And 19 CSU campuses are cited in Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education's "Publisher's Picks," an annual list of U.S. colleges and universities offering the best opportunities to Hispanic students.

A Changing Workforce

The CSU also plays an integral role in preparing the state's workforce.

The CSU prepares about 60 percent of California's teachers and more graduates in business, engineering, agriculture, communications, health, education, and public administration than all other public and private California universities and colleges combined. Altogether, about half the bachelor's degrees and a third of the master's degrees awarded in California are from the CSU.

In response to our state's workforce needs, we have renewed our emphasis on recruiting and preparing students for California's most high-demand fields, including teaching, engineering, agriculture, computer science, biotechnology, and nursing.

We also recognize that in today's knowledge-based economy, higher education is increasingly becoming a prerequisite for success in the workplace. That is why we have given top priority to outreach efforts that improve student access to higher education.

Student Outreach

I strongly believe that providing access means more than simply opening the doors. Providing access means assisting students all the way from elementary and secondary school until they graduate from the CSU.

Given the economic situation facing the state and the CSU, I believe we are making great progress with the limited resources we have been given for student outreach efforts. Let me share some highlights:

In 2000/01, the CSU spent $50.5 million on outreach and student academic preparation programs for nearly 460,000 students. These programs generally target students who are economically disadvantaged, who are enrolled in schools with low college-going rates, and who need assistance in strengthening basic math and English skills.

In 2000/01, through our Collaborative Academic Preparation Initiative, 19 CSU campuses established partnerships with 172 of the California high schools that send us the most students needing remediation. Through these partnerships, the CSU helps students develop the math and English skills they need to enter directly into CSU courses without the need for remedial education.

Additionally, nearly 200 CSU faculty members and 2,400 K-12 teachers participated in "faculty-to-faculty alliances" aimed at aligning CSU and high school standards in English and mathematics.

Other CSU outreach efforts include:

  • CSUMentor, our popular online college information service, which provides financial aid and admission information to students, families, and counselors;
  • Our "steps to college" posters, which help students in grades 6 through 12 understand what it takes to prepare for college.

As the state's population becomes more diverse, the CSU continues to develop academic preparation strategies that assist students from diverse backgrounds. Our mission is to reach all students—urban or rural, low income or affluent, old or young.

We help them understand that a college degree is within reach. Then we assist them all the way through to getting a degree.

Enrollment Growth

I should also mention that these efforts take place at a time of continuing enrollment growth. This fall, enrollment at the CSU rose for the seventh consecutive year. Over those seven years, we have grown by over 69,000 students. Clearly, Tidal Wave II has arrived.

At the same time, the state and the CSU face many budgetary challenges ahead. We are grateful that the governor's budget includes $87.9 million to support our projections of a 4% enrollment growth increase next year. Yet it could grow by even more than that.

Our challenge continues to be maintaining our commitment to access and quality with a limited pool of resources.

University Accountability

We have established several accountability measures to ensure that we are meeting these challenges. We recognize that accountability is important both externally, in terms of our public responsibility, and internally, as a means of self-assessment and review.

As a part of our four-year partnership funding agreement with Gov. Davis, we have pledged to provide accountability in several areas, including:

  • Partnering with K-12 schools;
  • Simplifying the transfer process from the community colleges to the CSU;
  • Offering year-round operations;
  • Improving degree completion rates;
  • Keeping tuition affordable. Our $1,428 undergraduate fee, one of the nation's lowest, has not increased since 1994.

Additionally, the CSU's strategic plan known as Cornerstones calls for a biennial accountability report in several performance areas, including access, persistence, and progression to the degree.

I have brought along a series of graphs that demonstrate the CSU's diversity. When you look at the accountability of the CSU over the last four years, you will see that:

  • The diversity of the CSU's first-time freshmen mirrors California's public high school graduates;
  • Our community college transfers also mirror this diversity;
  • The diversity of our students has increased over time;
  • The CSU grants more baccalaureate degrees to Latino and African American students than all other California institutions combined.

I think you will agree that the CSU has been diligent and persistent in its efforts to attract, support, and graduate students from disadvantaged groups.

Closing

Let me close by saying once again that I am fully committed to the CSU's mission of serving all eligible California students. In fact, I came to this university because of this mission.

In the coming years, as California's economy continues to demand more college-educated workers, we will continue to do more than simply offer a college degree.

We will reach out to those students who might never have realized that college is possible and give them the information and tools they need to get there and succeed.

To all of those students, who represent California's workers and leaders of the future, we promise nothing less than our very best. Thank you very much.


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