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Super Sunday Blog

One Word: Algebra
CSULA President James M. Rosser.
California State University, Los Angeles President James M. Rosser.

On Sunday morning, I had the privilege to address the congregation at Full Harvest International Church in Gardena. The hospitality was warm and gracious; and, as a participant in every past Super Sunday, I was once again inspired by the unyielding commitment to build a just society through faith and education.

I outlined how the path to success travels through higher education. I said that path is open to those determined to prepare themselves for its rigor. I also told the assembly that there is one word I especially wanted them to remember in the days to come:  Algebra.

Yes, Algebra.

Why? Because the biggest obstacle to CSU admission is not money.  California and the CSU have a great deal of financial aid and scholarships available.  Also, because CSU fees are comparatively very low, our students finish college with much less debt than students at other state universities and private institutions.

What then is the number-one factor stopping an applicant from gaining admission to a CSU campus?  Mathematics – or rather a lack of math proficiency.

Which brought me back to Algebra, and three words of advice for pre-K-12 students:  Take it!  Early!

The college-prep math train starts with Algebra One.  The sooner a child takes Algebra, the sooner he or she will be on track toward higher education.  Getting on board early is critical.  To promote mathematics literacy and help students prepare for university admission, the CSU has created Summer Algebra Institutes, and our chancellor has called for Algebra to be adopted as the math standard for all eighth-graders.

Also, through our Super Sunday partnership, CSU admissions counselors have worked closely with educational liaisons at the churches to boost an understanding of what else it takes to get to college.

The numbers are encouraging:  Between 2004 and 2007, undergraduate enrollment by African-American students in the CSU increased from roughly 18,400 to just over 22,000 – an increase of nearly 20 percent.

Over the same three years at Cal State L.A., the number of African American first-time freshmen increased by more than 55 percent.  Also, each year, on average, about 200 African American students are entering Cal State L.A. as undergraduate transfers.

Yet, amid dire economic news, the importance of education cannot be overstated, particularly relative to the historic and contemporary challenges facing the African American community.  This idea was perhaps most pointedly expressed by Charles Hamilton Houston, the NAACP attorney who engineered legal efforts to end segregation in schools.

“Education,” he said, “is preparation for the competition of life.”

Through this Super Sunday partnership with church leaders and other concerned individuals in the community, we will move closer to the type of nation we must have.


See previous blog entries in the archive.