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Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White - April 9, 2018

Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
HACU 23rd Annual National Capitol Forum on Higher Education Opening Remarks
Washington, DC
April 9, 2018


Thank you President Rodriguez. Thank you to my fellow panel members, Jim and Dane.

Undersecretary Manning… It's nice to be with you again.

The Department of Education is among the most important departments of the federal government for charting America's economic and social future.

Many times, the national focus is on the problems and threats of the here and now…

Yet your department has a responsibility to think about the knowledge and preparedness legacy we leave behind for our children and their children.

My youngest son is in middle school. So your decisions are immediately relevant to my family… as they are to almost every family.

With that said…

I am very pleased with the results of the omnibus spending bill. It captured much of what the CSU and our advocates sought and made Jim's work as COO of Federal Student Aid even more impactful. Thanks, Jim.

  • A plus up in the maximum Pell Grant awards, with the potential to benefit more than 220,000 CSU students… alongside additional increases in other aid programs.
  • A plus up in funding for TRIO, GEAR UP and Hispanic-Serving Institution programs – all areas in which the CSU is extremely active and our students and faculty benefit a great deal.

    In fact, 21 of the 23 CSU campuses meet the criteria for HSI recognition… and most of our campuses have Department of Education HSI grants.

  • And steady or increased funding for STEM Education, Teacher Quality Partnerships and Noyce Teacher Scholarships.

    These programs are heavily aimed at closing gaps in minority STEM degree attainment, teacher preparation and other areas where the CSU's mission and demographics make us highly effective.

I was also pleased to see increases for numerous research and community engagement programs.

These types of opportunities are critical for student and faculty development.

So I thank all my colleagues for their advocacy and support in this area and the Department… I know it truly is a team effort.

But, more work is left to be done…

And the CSU has a wide range of suggestions for Higher Education Act reauthorization… which continues to be an opportunity to expand and tailor a range of programs that help create more opportunity for urban, rural, low-income and majority-minority communities.

Specifically, the CSU advocates maintaining… or indeed expanding… funding for minority-serving institution programs.

We should celebrate and support our campuses and systems that have been successful in reaching their communities… and creating opportunities for students… many of whom are first-generation college goers… like I was when, as an immigrant, I arrived at a California Community College, Diablo Valley College followed by Fresno State, a CSU campus… and CSU East Bay for my master's degree and UC Berkeley for my Ph.D.

We also know that decisions are being deferred… most critically for our Dreamer students who continue to live with day-to-day uncertainty.

While immigration policy is not the specific province of the Department of Education… it is a critical factor in whether these students… as American as you or me… are empowered to earn their degree and successfully contribute to the economy.

I get to tell a great many alumni success stories in my line of work… we have more than 3.4 million living alumni – with 100,000 joining the alumni ranks every year – so there are a lot of stories to choose from…

One of my favorite stories is about the Carvajal sisters.

These two Cal State San Bernardino alumnae, as children with their family, fled their home in Colombia.

After the family's visas expired, the Carvajal sisters worried that they couldn't attend college.

Yet, because of Cal State San Bernardino's privately-funded scholarship for the highest achieving high school seniors – regardless of immigration status – they earned their bachelor's degrees with honors.

Both have since earned advanced degrees… started a company in Los Angeles providing life-changing therapies to infants with disabilities… and have now established a Dreamers scholarship at their alma mater.

This story for me encapsulates why opportunity matters.

Economics is not a zero-sum game. When we empower our students to succeed they go on to be successful alumni… and those alumni create opportunities for others.

And… as in the case of the sisters… many of our CSU alumni choose to lead lives of positive change and public good.

Let me expand on that idea of public good and public benefit… because education is necessarily linked to workforce preparation, economic prosperity and social mobility.

We have… as a matter of national policy over recent decades… focused on the personal benefit of higher education. And that personal benefit is clearly proven by the facts.

You've heard… no doubt… that someone with a bachelor's degree can earn a million dollars more in their lifetime. That is even after you back out the cost of education and the opportunity cost of years not in the full-time workforce.

But many assume that it is the high-demand STEM fields that pay off. And while they certainly have the highest payoff, the truth is that every degree path… from education… to social science... to business... yields a lifetime economic return in the hundreds of thousands.

That is the personal benefit.

But we also know that higher education yields huge benefits to public coffers and to public wellbeing.

  • Increased tax revenue
  • Decreased social services spending
  • Higher standards of living
  • Lower crime rates
  • Better community health outcomes
  • And a more engaged citizenry

The rising tide of education really does lift all boats… and I know this for certain… because the California State University Maritime Academy is one of our 23 campuses.

But here is what worries me… what keeps me up at night…

America… California too… is falling behind.

We used to lead the world in bachelor's attainment. Now, almost all of Europe has passed us by… as have Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea… while countries including China, India and Mexico are making massive investments in their public higher education system.

We live in a world where knowledge… particularly the ability to create and use new knowledge… is our most valuable commodity.

We must prepare our young people to be thinkers as well as doers. It is not enough to know the skills of today, you need to adapt to the skills of tomorrow.

And if America is to retain its prized position as a global power, we must develop new skills – we must reclaim the titles of innovator and entrepreneur.

The California State University is prepared to our part. And we are uniquely positioned to do so…

The CSU has 23 campuses and numerous major off-campus centers, but in truth we are one university stretching from San Diego to Humboldt.

It's hard to get perspective for how much geography that covers. So I will try to represent what that would mean here on the East Coast.

From my office in Long Beach to our furthest campus north… Humboldt State… spans 600 miles. That's enough to get you from DC to Montreal in Canada…

But from my office you have to go another 100 miles south to reach San Diego State…

So, in reality, the CSU stretches the equivalent of Richmond, Virginia to Montreal, Quebec…

But what really matters are our people… our nearly half-a-million students… our 52,000 faculty and staff… and our more than 3.4 million living alumni.

Those alumni comprise 1 in 10 members of the California workforce… and 1 in 20 US degree holders.

Actions taken at the CSU are consequential on a national scale… and we have the expertise of educating the nation's most diverse bachelor's student population… with Department of Education financial aid programs and grants – particularly HSI grants – being a major contributor to our outreach and success.

And, in fact, we have one of the most diverse pools of education leaders… with women now comprising more than half of all CSU presidencies. In fact, San Diego State is welcoming its first woman… its first Latina… president in a few months.

So we are here.

Willing and ready to provide know-how… to share best practices in preparing today's college students… and, indeed, preparing the innovators, entrepreneurs and career professionals of tomorrow.

Thank you.