Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White – March 19-20, 2019

​​Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Board of Trustees Meeting – Chancellor’s Report
Long Beach, CA
March 20, 2019


Thank you Chair Day.

When we last gathered in January, I reported to you about the state of the California State University. In those remarks, I pointed to the undeniable momentum we are experiencing as we work toward the ambitious goals of our Graduation Initiative. Graduation rates are climbing and the equity gap is finally beginning to close – even while we are enrolling historically higher numbers of Pell recipients and of underserved students.

But as we increase access and success for our students and work toward cutting into the one million bachelor’s degree gap that is facing California, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the value of that degree we are working so hard to provide for all prepared Californians who desire one.

Let’s focus for a moment on this latter point – degrees earned for all prepared Californians – where events last week that emerged into the nation’s discourse add another dimension to our reflections. The admissions scandal involving wealthy parents and their at times undeserving children, along with university coaches and other employees coupled with bribes and surrogate test takers has rightly captured the nation’s attention. These charges are deeply troubling and undermine the foundation and core values of higher education in America and particularly and certainly the values and expectations of the California State University. While there is no evidence to date of any CSU campus or personnel involved, and while we routinely review our admissions policy and practices, we will do more to assure fairness and equity in our admissions. We will continue to analyze our admissions policies and practices to be certain they are strong and prevent fraudulent applicants and illegal and unethical ways to gain admission, thereby denying admission to hardworking Californians who are deserving. We will consult with the College Board and other outside agencies as needed and if irregularities are found, we will take swift and appropriate action. We will report back to this Board by the end of the calendar year on this matter.

So what is the value of a CSU degree? It may seem too obvious a point to contemplate. We know all the answers, right? Economic opportunity. Social ascent, mobility. Growth of a skilled workforce that will propel California’s economy and society forward as the future of work itself transforms.

Certainly, those are important personal and societal benefits of a college degree. But  I would like to call your attention to a report published by AGB’s The Guardians Initiative, titled “Return on Investment in Higher Education.” And it confirms many of our expectations, but it also sets forth some value propositions we may not often consider.

It does an excellent job aggregating and synthesizing much of the research on this topic. I will paraphrase some of the report’s findings here and encourage you each to read the full report for added context and detail.

The report lists the expected direct financial and economic benefits of a college education. College graduates simply earn more money. They report higher levels of job satisfaction. They are more likely to be employed and to employ others. They contribute more in taxes during their lifetimes than those holding a high school degree, and they rely much less on public services that are a cost to society.

While these are important aspects of the value proposition, I found myself also drawn to the less obvious, more indirect benefits of a college degree:

  • College graduates are more engaged citizens. They vote at a significantly higher rate than those with a high school degree. They are more apt to discuss politics, make purchasing decisions based on their social values or run for public office.\
  • And not only as you heard this morning regarding the abundant service learning while being a student at Cal State in Billy’s assessmentthat was 171-person-years, which is really a remarkable way to characterize it – but those who have earned a degree volunteer more within their communities and are more likely to serve in leadership positions in education, community or faith-based organizations.
  • Our alumni are more generous, donating to charitable organizations at significantly higher rates than those without a college diploma.
  • College graduates are lifelong learners, they explore more personal and professional development opportunities. And their love of learning is a legacy they pass on to their children. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 85 percent of children whose parents attended college go on to college themselves.
  • Finally, college graduates take even better care of themselves. They exercise more, smoke less and report higher levels of happiness.

I think I am drawn to these powerful, albeit indirect benefits because they mirror what we see on a daily basis with our own students. As CSU education awakens, fuels and emboldens something within our students. Call it finding their best selves. It inspires them to action. And that action, in turn, kindles a spark in others, at scales large and small. It enlivens individuals, elevates families and it invigorates communities. It represents the essential value of a Cal State education.

Consider Emmanuel Morales, a senior chemistry major at Cal State San Marcos. Emmanuel, a first-generation student, is in his third year as a STEM ambassador from the San Marcos’s Center for Research and Engagement in STEM Education. Twice each week, he and other San Marcos STEM students fan out to area middle schools, bringing design-based, STEM-related activities to schools that would not otherwise be able to expose their students to such projects.

Emmanuel’s charges have built simple robots with toothbrushes and cell-phone motors, created solar-powered vehicles from recycled materials, and assembled motors powered with conductive Play-Doh. We should have Emmanuel come here!

“The best part is seeing the students’ smiles and knowing that I taught them something,” Emmanuel says. “And knowing that they’ll go home and think about trying to become a STEM student.”

Bill Mueller is a graduate of Sacramento State. He is a recipient of its 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award. Like Emmanuel, Bill was the first in his family to earn a degree.  Now, he is the CEO of Sacramento-based Valley Vision, a civic leadership organization dedicated to providing community-inspired solutions to big regional problems. Under Bill’s leadership, Valley Vision has managed hundreds of programs that have driven transformative change in Northern California. Valley Vision projects have improved access to healthcare and to mental health services, trained the local workforce for a 21st-century economy, provided healthy lunches to low-income school kids, and developed infrastructure to bring broadband access to underserved communities. And this only scratches the surface of this organization’s work.

Bill says, and I quote: “Sacramento State changed my life. It helped me understand the world around me. Not only did I have the best in theory, I had professors who understood the use and practice of it to develop workable solutions to difficult challenges.”

In January, I offered that our reason for existence was to help students shape their dreams and then give them the knowledge and tools to realize them. As the AGB study and the stories I have shared and the others I have heard today and yesterday illustrate, this work of dream making is then carried forward by our students and alumni as they bring their vision, talents and best selves to their local communities, California and beyond.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge one more example of the CSU’s impact on its local communities.

In October of 2017, and Trustee Eisen commented on this yesterday in passing as well, the Tubbs Fire destroyed Camp Newmon, a beloved camp near Santa Rosa that has served as a summer home to hundreds of thousands of Jewish children for more than 70 years.

And mere hours after surveying the destruction, camp staff arrived at a decision. The camp mission must continue. The immediate need was to find an alternate location so that the children would have a place to go that summer.

It took President Thomas Cropper and his executive staff at California State University Maritime Academy just three days to step up. And within three months of the fire, Camp Newmon had its home away from home at Cal Maritime’s beautiful seaside campus, and the magic of camp was restored for the kids.

The camp will return to campus again this summer, as it continues to develop its fire-recovery plans.

The camp’s executive director Ruben Arquilevich described the partnership with Cal Maritime this way, “From the moment we stepped on the grounds, we felt a level of warmth and hospitality that I have very rarely experienced.”

On February 27th, in recognition of this extraordinary commitment to community, the Jewish Community Relations Council presented President Cropper and his team with the organization’s first-ever Outstanding Community Partnership Award.

I thank President Cropper for so powerfully demonstrating that we are California’s compassionate state university.

Chairman Day, that concludes my report.​