Bay Area Council

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Bay Area Council
San Francisco, CA
June 2, 2014

Thank you, Jim (Wunderman, Bay Area Council President).

I’m also pleased to be joined by Bob Linscheid, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Until two weeks ago, he was my boss as chair of the Board of Trustees. Bob’s term expired after 9 years of service. Thank you for your leadership, Bob.

And I want to give a special recognition to the CSU presidents who were able to join us today: Les Wong of San Francisco State and Leroy Morishita of CSU East Bay, as well as San Francisco State President Emeritus Bob Corrigan, and several other senior leaders from the Bay Area campuses.

When people talk about higher education, it seems that there’s often a recent controversy that drives the discussion.

But when you’re sitting in my chair, there’s really only one issue that can be the driving force behind our policies, and when that issue is addressed, everything else falls into place. That issue is students’ achievement of the degree, and it is the central factor that gives us our mission and direction.

I am grateful for the Bay Area Council’s thoughtful attention to the “skills gap,” in which business and individuals are hurt because high skills, high wage, high demand jobs go unfilled or have a limited supply of qualified candidates.

When demand goes up, capacity goes down, and then the degree deficit goes up.

Indeed, think of the CSU as the great California condor. Endangered species dropped to 22 birds in the 1980s, but now there are 230 free-flying birds – ten for each CSU campus.

That is why we make the case for resources in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and why we seek public-private partnerships, a point I’ll come back to.

We are also concerned, as you should be, about students who are failing to complete their degrees in a timely manner – particularly students who come from traditionally under-served populations. One estimate shows that, nationally, only about 25 % of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will graduate by age 24.

We know that these numbers are not where they should be. It’s obviously harmful to students. It’s wasteful for the universities and the states that invest resources in students who never graduate.

And for all of the businesses and organizations that need and want to hire more college graduates, it’s frustrating to see that opportunity lost. Our economy needs students from all walks of life to become successful graduates and participants in the workforce.

That’s why today I want to give you just a little background on the California State University system, but mostly I want to focus on what we’re doing to promote student success – for all students – and in the process, to serve as a public good in our communities.

California State University

As chancellor, I oversee the California State University system, which has 23 campuses all around the state and 8 off-campus centers.

Our 1000-mile long university ranges from Humboldt State in the north to San Diego State in the south. Here in the greater Bay Area we have San Francisco State, Cal State East Bay, San Jose, State, Cal Maritime, Cal State Monterey Bay, and Sonoma State. And for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, several top feeder schools are in the Bay Area and 30 percent of the student body is from here.

Altogether, the system enrolls a total of about 450,000 students and we employ 46,000 faculty and staff. Our state educational budget (state appropriations and tuition and capital outlay) is about $4.4 billion.

We graduate about 100,000 students each year and our total alumni is approaching 3 million. One in 10 members of California’s workforce are CSU graduates, making us the best investment in public higher education for California.

We’re a significant force in technology fields here in the Bay Area. In fact, a 2012 report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute called CSU graduates the “technical backbone” for many Silicon Valley companies.

For example, San Jose State’s engineering program – the largest in the region – is one of the top two sources of employees at Cisco, with 6 percent of the company’s workforce.

Wired magazine reported just last week that San Jose State is one of the top three “feeder” schools to both Apple and Yahoo.

And at Cal Poly SLO, 97 percent of graduates are employed in nine months – 40 percent are in the Bay Area, and 60 percent of them are in high-tech jobs.

But we can’t produce enough STEM graduates without a more robust pipeline. The CSU is powerfully positioned, and unlike others, fully committed to reaching helpfully into the K-12 schools.

A San Francisco State, the Center for Science and Math Education helps current and aspiring K-12 educators in STEM and engages K-12 student in the fun and requirements for STEM.

Across the bay, in East Bay – one of my alma maters – the convene a regional alliance – the “Gateways East Bay STEM Network” – a component of a cradle-to-career approach. It serves as the hub for regional stakeholders in Contra Costa and Alameda County – educational, local, state, federal government, business, non-profit, civic, and philanthropic.

Public Good

Beyond those specific examples, we strive to be an overall positive force for change in California. We frame that work in terms of the public good we create that improves and enriches California’s businesses and communities.

What is the “good” we are doing for California?

  • We are affordable: Our tuition is among the lowest in the country for a public four-year university. Undergraduate tuition is $5,472 for the full year, plus approximately $1,200 in fees. Over half of our students pay nothing with robust financial aid.
  • We provide access to under-served students: Half of our undergraduates are Pell grant recipients – meaning they receive a federal grant because they are from low-income families.
  • More than three-quarters of our students receive financial aid.
  • Only 19 % of our graduates who started as freshmen need to take out loans – compared to the national average of 58 % for similar students.
  • We award 47 % of the bachelor’s degrees in the state and 1/3 of the master’s degrees, and over half of the teaching credentials.
  • We graduate students in the fields that propel California forward.We award more than half of the state’s degrees in agriculture, criminal justice, public administration, business, and nursing. We award almost half in engineering, almost all in hospitality and tourism, over half of the teacher credentials, and all of the maritime graduates who operate ships and ferries here in the bay.
  • Our graduates’ average starting salaries and mid-career salaries are higher than the national average.
  • Dollar for dollar, we give a fantastic value for the education we provide.


Last month, TIME magazine came up with an innovative and common-sense metric for assessing schools on value-based standards proposed by the Obama administration.  These standards are not based on past reputation and legacies, but rather data.

This system ranks colleges and universities on how well they serve their students, based on metrics like graduation rate, tuition, and the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants – in other words, are we teaching students who are reflective of society.

On those terms, eight of our campuses were ranked among the top 100 in the nation out of approximately 3,000 colleges and universities that were evaluated…out of about 4,200 accredited institutions in the country.

When I see these figures, I believe the CSU is truly providing meaningful value to our students, and to California’s business leaders and communities.

The education that we provide is not simply affordable; it’s impactful to individual students and to the community at large.

And we welcome this new standard of accountability and transparency, because it we believe it will change the lens through which people view colleges and universities…and it will enhance the public’s perception of what it is the CSU does and how it benefits our communities across the board.

Earlier I mentioned public-private partnerships to preserve the public nature of the CSU. We cannot rely on tuition and state funding alone to meet California’s need.

Take for example the Green Music Center at Sonoma State, one hour north of here. At the green is Weill Hall, a world-class concert hall, equivalent to Tanglewood in Massachusetts. Upcoming concerts include Tony Bennett, Ben Harper, and Yo Yo Ma.

Weill Hall required a $150 million investment that never would have happened without CSU dollars, corporate, and private philanthropic support. The facility serves student and faculty by day and the community by night.

If you haven’t been, it’s worth it to take a weekend to enjoy the sights and sounds at this incredible hall.

CSU Priorities

As I mentioned, like the California condor, demand is up. Looking forward, we know that we have a massive cohort of new students at our doorstep, and we are going to need to continue to serve them with high-quality, accessible, and meaningful programs.

We’re going to do it by continuing to focus on student achievement, success, and degree completion… so that our students can go on and become productive members of the workforce in a timely manner.

To that end, we are preparing to invest an additional $50 million in seven key areas designed directly to advance student success. Those areas include:

  1. Tenure-track faculty hiring
  2. Enhanced advising, including e-advising and analytics
  3. Clearing bottleneck courses
  4. Early student preparation – especially in math and writing
  5. High-impact practices
  6. Data-driven decision making
  7. Improved transfer degree completion


Why are we focused on these issues? Because each of these items ultimately helps us create a successful environment for students.

Let’s look at some examples:

Outstanding faculty: Our faculty is made up of people like Dr. Lettie Ramirez, a member of the Department of Teacher Education at Cal State East Bay.

She is a leader in the East Bay’s Hayward Promise Neighborhood Project and GANAS, East Bay’s program for Latino transfer students.

She has received more than $11 million in federal, state, and private funding to support professional development for teachers to improve our area schools and bring better-prepared students to our colleges.

Outstanding advising: We offer programs like San Francisco State’s nationally recognized Metro Academies, which are designed to retain and graduate underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students.

Each Metro Academy is a learning community with personalized in-class academic support, advising and tutoring.

It’s designed as a 'school within a school' to give students an educational home in their first two years of college.

Workforce preparation: We specialize in programs like CSU Monterey Bay’s Professional Science Masters in Applied Marine and Watershed Science.

This program is meeting the demand for skilled professionals within technology-based businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits. It distinguishes these graduates as they enter the workforce.

Community college transfers: We serve students like Marco Gomez, who graduated from Los Medanos College with an Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) in psychology.

He is now at San Francisco State with a pathway to a bachelor’s degree in psychology laid out in front of him. As long as he stays on that pathway he’ll graduate in two years with the required 60 units and holding two degrees…and he’ll be able to follow through on his goal of giving back to the community and helping troubled youth and young adults.

We’re also opening up courses on other campuses through technology – allowing concurrent cross-campus enrollment for the first time without ever leaving your zip code.

We will continue to pour our efforts into more high-quality opportunities for students that will keep them connected with real-world experiences … and lead to a greater public good as a result.

Our $50 million commitment to student success represents an investment in all of our students and the productive lives that they go on to live.

If we don’t invest, then a true cost to California will occur.  The liability to California will occur with more unemployment costs, more costs for social services and the criminal justice system, and state revenue foregone because of lower wages.

As we move forward, we know we must work hand-in-hand with our partners to be truly successful. 

We will continue to reach out to policymakers; our colleagues in P-12, community colleges, and higher education; our trustees, faculty, staff and students; alumni; the public; and of course organizations like the Bay Area Council, and continue to look for ways to work together on developing partnerships, internships, and other opportunities for our students.


Let me finish with one simple statement: We care about California, and thus we care about the success of our students, and we know that the impact of their success is only the first ripple in the pond.

With every graduation season we celebrate not only the milestone for our graduates, but also the impact they will make in the communities they call home. 

We do so proudly because we are California’s public comprehensive university, and we prepare the graduates that will help California and its communities prosper.

Working together for the public good is our ultimate goal. It is our future. And it will be our legacy.

I look forward to continuing this journey together.

Thank you very much. I will be glad to take your questions now.