Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro - February 28, 2021

CSU Super Sunday
Dr. Joseph I. Castro
Chancellor, The California State University
Super Sunday
Remarks (as prepared)
February 28, 2021

Good morning. I am so pleased to be here with you at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ. I'd like to begin by celebrating a very special woman who recently passed away – Dr. Barbara Young, who I know was a beloved member of your congregation.

As you know, Barbara was a dynamic presence who brought the vision of the California State University's “Super Sunday" event to life. Thanks to her tireless efforts, it is now one of the CSU's core initiatives for advancing access and success for students of color across the CSU, in partnership with nearly 100 churches statewide.

To Bishop Blake and Lady Mae Blake, and to all of you joining us today: on behalf of the entire CSU family, thank you for continuing Barbara's legacy, especially through this challenging time. 

Challenging is probably an understatement. Together we've faced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, sickening and tragic instances of racial injustice and deepening divisions among Americans from coast to coast.

But I'm not here to dwell in the darkness. Instead I'd like to point out a bright and unwavering light.

Our 23 CSU campuses have not only survived, but thrived.

We've successfully transitioned to online instruction to protect our students' health and safety, and to keep as many students as possible on track for their degree.

We've moved our full range of student support to virtual modes, from tutoring, to health and wellness, financial aid and much more.

Our faculty and staff have invested more than a quarter million hours in additional training to ensure the best possible learning experience for our students.

And we've been rewarded with phenomenal results.

In May, we graduated our largest class ever – nearly 129,000 talented and diverse students.

We narrowed equity gaps for low-income students and students of color, and we improved graduation rates for all students, as part of Graduation Initiative 2025.

And this fall – as universities across the country lost students – we celebrated our largest student body ever. And as soon as we are safely able, we plan to welcome students back to our campuses, with a renewed focus on equity and support. 

Our students have persisted, thanks to their own character and resolve – and the support of their families and community partners like you.

But these students also know what I'm here to share with you today.

College is doable. College is affordable – we can make sure of that. And college will transform your life.

It's transformed mine.

My late grandfather, Jess Mendez, was a Dreamer. He was two years old when he and his mother came to California from Mexico a century ago. They came here to join my great-grandfather, who was helping to build the railroad.

My grandparents were farmworkers, living in a small shed in Hanford, when my mother was born. All of them worked hard to raise me, dreaming of a bright future for their children and grandchildren.

And while all of them most certainly had the intelligence and drive to succeed in college, they never got the chance.

Fortunately, thanks to their support, I did get that chance. And today, I've dedicated my life to passing this gift of a quality education on to you and your children and grandchildren.

My family was from modest means and we questioned whether we could afford college – but with help from the university, our family made it work. And the CSU can make it work for you.

Eighty-four percent of CSU students receive financial aid, and three-quarters of those students have the full cost of their tuition covered.

In fact, most CSU students graduate with zero debt. Zero.

Last year we offered even higher levels of support, delivering CSU Cares grants directly to students… ramping up services to help students who need food or housing, and distributing technology to help all students connect with us virtually.

We do this because we know that a college degree has never been more valuable.

Today, an estimated two-thirds of all job openings require a college degree – and that percentage will only increase.

College graduates typically earn a million dollars more over their lifetimes than people with only a high school diploma, and they are far less likely to be unemployed.

Please know that – whatever your circumstances – the CSU exists to help you, your children and your grandchildren reach your brightest future.

I sincerely hope you will take the next step and learn more. We would love for you to add to our bright light.

Thank you again for inviting us here today. May God bless and be with you.