Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White February 11, 2018

Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
NAACP Long Beach Chapter Meeting
February 11, 2018

Thank you to the entire Long Beach NAACP membership and board for hosting today…

And thank you, President Naomi Rainey for your invitation… and for your five decades of service to the Long Beach community and the NAACP.

The CSU – and Cal State Long Beach in particular – runs deep through this chapter…

Naomi is an alumnus… and joining her in the alumni network soon will be chapter intern, Spencer Butler, who will graduate in May from Cal State Long Beach with a double major in sociology and African studies.

Congratulations, Spencer.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to bet that there’s a lot of Cal State alumni here this afternoon.

The Long Beach community… indeed California and our nation… continue to be enriched by African American Long Beach State alumni.

They are our community leaders, teachers, business and industry titans and entrepreneurs, police officers and firefighters, lawyers, and college faculty, staff and administrators.

Raise your hand if you’re an alumnus… the parent of an alumnus… or a current student in the CSU.


In the invitation to today’s event, I was asked by Naomi to provide an update on the Status of the CSU…

Now, I gave my official State of the CSU address a few weeks ago… 35 minutes long…

I can see people already eyeing the exits… so I won’t recite the entire half hour plus for you again today… but if you’re curious, or need a natural sleep remedy, it’s on our website.

With Naomi’s prompt, however, about the status of the CSU… and the state of public higher education in California… I keep coming back to the remarkable breadth of reasons why it matters so much to so many people.

You might already know that our legacy is a community of over four million Californians – alumni, students, faculty and staff – and their contributions and historic work that we celebrate.

You might already know that our legacy is Cal State Dominguez Hills rising from the ashes of the Watts Rebellion in 1965…

And solidified by San José State’s Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

And you might already know that our legacy is the story of Sacramento State… which on October 16, 1967 had the courage to stand up to hatred and division by inviting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak, at a time when few others would.

So what is the status of the CSU today?

We’re all-in on improving graduation and retention rates, eliminating achievement gaps, and ensuring that we are fulfilling our public mission to the people of California.

  • One of my personal mantras has been for more students from California’s diversely dynamic populace to earn a high-quality education and degree sooner.

Over the last five years, the CSU community has been laser focused on raising completion rates… resulting in a:

  • 25 percent improvement in first-time freshmen graduating in four years; and
  • 28 percent improvement in the rate of transfer students graduating in two years

For African American students, specifically:

  • First year retention rates over the last decade have increased nearly 10 percentage points; and
  • Student retention in year two and year three have increased at similar rates
  • African American students graduating in four years or less has increased four percentage points between the fall 2007 cohort and the fall 2013 cohort – which just graduated last spring; and
  • The six-year rate – another goal we are working to improve – has increased seven percentage points between fall 2007 and fall 2011.

These would be banner increases for any university…

But in a system with 487,000 students, the raw numbers behind our holistic, all-hands-on-deck student success efforts are truly amazing.

So how did we get there?

Last year, the CSU:

  • Brought in more than 700 new tenure-track faculty, the largest cohort in a decade… with searches for an additional 700 underway now;
  • This equates to nearly 400 new faculty positions after retirements

These faculty will be teaching additional classes, helping ensure students are able to enroll in the courses they need, when they need them.

We’re also:

  • Bringing in more staff and peer advisers;
  • Revolutionizing our curriculum and advising tools; and
  • Revitalizing our research and learning spaces.

And we’ve completely revamped the way we approach academic preparation and skills development.

In recent years, more than 25,000 incoming first-year students each year are informed that they are not ready for college-level math or English coursework after being admitted to the CSU.

  • Nearly 60 percent of African American students – three in five – receive that message;
  • One-in-four will not return for their second year;
  • Only 10 percent will graduate in four years; and
  • Less than half will graduate in six years.

This is unacceptable.

So last fall, we changed the way we thought about academic preparation by:

  • Improving assessment of college readiness;
  • Strengthening the Early Start Program;
  • Restructuring developmental education; and
  • Clarifying and updating General Education requirements.

We believe that this will play a tremendous role in improving student persistence and degree completion… especially for African American students and students of color… and will help us eliminate historically-persistent equity and achievement gaps.

So what are we expecting to see from this re-think on academic preparation and skills development?

  • We expect a significant reduction – around two-thirds – in the number of students mandated to attend early start;
  • Students formerly enrolled in non-college credit English or mathematics will be enrolled in supported college-credit courses in their first term; and
  • Students will no longer be dis-enrolled for not showing proficiency at the end of the first year.

These changes will have a massive, positive impact on student retention, completion… and ultimately, lower tuition and other costs for students.

Keeping student costs low is – and always will be – a driving force in the CSU’s efforts to ensure quality, opportunity, inclusivity and success.

Today, over 60 percent of all CSU undergraduates – based on family income and need – pay zero tuition through the CSU’s own State University Grant; and

Nearly 75 percent of all CSU undergraduates have all tuition covered by non-loan financial aid (grants, scholarships or waivers).

Specifically, for African American students in the CSU:

  • 89 percent of African American undergraduates have their tuition covered by non-loan financial aid (grants, scholarships or waivers); and
  • 67 percent – two in three – receive federal Pell grants.

All of our efforts – including hiring additional faculty and advisors to teach more courses to more students – require sufficient, predictable and sustainable funding from the State of California.

And it is my belief – a belief shared by all 23 campus presidents and trustees – that the state, not students or families, should be footing a lion’s share of the cost.

That’s the promise that the people of California made back in 1960… and it’s a legacy that we must sustain and build upon today and in the future.

Of course, we know that even with one of the most robust financial aid support systems in the country…

And with the lowest tuition rates of our comparator universities across California and the nation…

That the student and family costs to attending and succeed in college go beyond what they pay in tuition each semester.

California… Long Beach… is an expensive place to live.

We were among the first to identify – through research – that food and housing insecurity is a problem facing too many college students across the nation… and that the CSU is not immune.

And last week, our CSU Basic Needs Conference in Sacramento was a coming together of experts and leaders from across the CSU and our partner organizations to examine the research behind food and housing insecurity… to share ideas… and to deploy best practices on campus and across our university.

Dr. Rashida Crutchfield… professor from Long Beach State… is helping to lead our research efforts to identify the issues and challenges our students face… and Dr. Denise Bevly is coordinating the CSU’s many, many actions to solve these challenges.

I’ve brought along a few copies of our recent Action Report on Basic Needs… highlighting all of the things are campuses have done since Dr. Crutchfield’s initial study in 2015.

Needless to say, we’ve made a lot of progress… and there’s still a lot to do.

I hope all of you saw the recent LA Times article highlighting our Basic Needs Conference and some of the findings from our most recent reports…

Our research found that:

  • 1 in 10 students overall experienced housing insecurity at some point last year – that is, at times lacked a fixed, regular and adequate place to stay at night; and
  • 4 in 10 students overall experienced food insecurity – lacking a consistent source of nutritious and varied food.

For first-generation African American students, those numbers nearly doubled, with:

  • 2 in 10 first-generation African American students experienced housing insecurity; and
  • Nearly two-thirds of first-generation African American students experienced food insecurity.

The entire CSU is taking action to reverse these statistics… Long Beach State, for example, has:

  • Opened a food pantry and food distribution program;
  • Developed a program for campus restaurants and stores to accept EBT;
  • Created a meal-sharing program enabling students, faculty and staff to donate meals from their dining plans to students in need;
  • Provided short-term, on-campus emergency housing; and
  • Provided emergency grants to students in need.

These are just some of the things that Long Beach State has enacted to combat food and housing insecurity.

And I encourage everyone to visit… search for “Basic Needs” to read our Action Report and learn more.

I want to again thank the membership of the Long Beach NAACP for hosting me and my colleagues here today… and thank you President Rainey for the invitation.

Before I turn it over for Q&A… I want to close my remarks by remembering something that Dr. King said 51 years ago…

A young sociology professor from Sacramento State – Dean Dorn – was driving Dr. King from the Sacramento Airport to the campus for his speech…

Professor Dorn asked Dr. King about how he dealt with the immense pressure and burden placed upon him… essentially, what kept Dr. King’s drive going after all of the many years and decades of struggle?

Dr. King told the young professor that in the face of overwhelming obstacles and challenges… we must, quote:

“Keep up our hope, our struggle, and our determination to continue even when we may never reach our destination.”

A visionary statement. A timeless statement. A profound statement we can all benefit from today.

Thank you all again for the invitation… and I’m happy to answer any questions.