The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic impact continue to challenge our nation, our state and our great institutions like the California State University as never before.
I could not be more proud of the way that the CSU has risen to meet this moment.
Guided by twin North Stars—safeguarding the health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve, and ensuring that as many students as possible stay on track to earning the proven, lifelong benefits of a CSU degree—the university made the massive pivot to primarily online instruction and virtual support.
More than 80,000 classes were transitioned to virtual modalities, as was the CSU’s full range of academic and holistic support services. Great care was taken to continue to provide for our students who are housing or food insecure. Tens of thousands of new laptops and Wi-Fi hot spots were distributed to students to mitigate the “digital divide” that can disproportionately impede students from historically underserved populations. Faculty and staff engaged in more than 250,000 hours of professional development to ensure a robust teaching, learning and discovery experience.
Thanks to the resolve, ingenuity and adaptability of the CSU’s faculty, staff and students, the university has not only sustained its instruction and core operations, it has thrived. Record numbers of degrees were awarded in spring 2020. Completion rates for students from all walks of life are at all-time highs. And in the fall, the university enrolled its largest-ever student body.
This is a testament not only to the value of and demand for a CSU degree, but also to the trust Californians have in our mission and our ability to transform their lives. And it was made possible due to public funding—new state investment spanning from the end of the last recession until the beginning of the current global public health crisis.
But now, the CSU is at a critical financial crossroads. State funding was cut by $299 million for 2020-21—a 7.4 percent decrease. The university faces increased costs associated with the pandemic and shift to virtual instruction. Self-funded enterprise programs—such as student housing, parking and professional and continuing education—are suffering extreme financial hardship.
To keep core instructional and student-support functions afloat, and to mitigate negative impacts to faculty and staff to every extent possible, the CSU has implemented a hiring chill, halted travel and is carefully spending down a portion of reserves prudently saved for economic uncertainty.
However, moving forward, the state must make the CSU a priority in its budgetary decisions. If the state were to choose to cut the CSU’s budget again in 2021-22 and beyond, the university’s financial situation will quickly become untenable, threatening both our progress and our mission.
The trustees’ budget plan was developed with careful consideration of the CSU’s and the state’s fiscal reality. And it represents a vital, prudent and effective path forward—for the university and for our students—through this extraordinarily challenging moment in time.
Indeed, the CSU’s work has never been more critical or more urgent. But we have demonstrated that we are up to the task and stand ready—with your commitment to provide the necessary financial support—to remain a beacon of resilience and recovery for our great state, and to continue to propel Californians from all backgrounds toward their brightest future.