Long Beach Rotary

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Long Beach Rotary
Long Beach, CA
May 7, 2014

Thank you, Sal (Farfan, Rotary vice president). It’s nice to see so many familiar faces here. I met with some of your colleagues at the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce late last month, and it has been a pleasure to get to know several of you. If you were there at the Chamber luncheon, go get a second lunch – not much has changed in two weeks!

I’m also glad to see so many alumni like the Rotary’s own President Kay Cofield, who is a proud 49er. I’d like to see a show of hands: How many people here have attended or graduated, or have had a family member attend, a CSU campus?


I also want to give a special thanks to the Rotary for its support of Presidents Scholars and traditional scholarships at Cal State Long Beach.

California State University

As chancellor, my job as CEO is to oversee the California State University system, which has 23 campuses all around the state and 8 off-campus centers.

We are located here in town on Golden Shore, with over 500 employees in law, academic programs, HR, audit, finance, capital construction, and advancement and public relations.

Our 1000-mile long university ranges from Humboldt State in the north to San Diego State in the south. Here in L.A. County, we have Long Beach, Dominguez Hills, Northridge, Los Angeles, and Cal Poly Pomona. And just beyond the county line, we have Channel Islands, San Bernardino, and Fullerton. 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.

Locally, at Cal State Long Beach, the campus enrolls more than 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students and employs a total of about 5,900 full-time and part-time employees.

And so while a given community may be knowledgeable about their local campus, each campus is part of a large engine that drives California’s economy and the social mobility of its people. The power of 23 is profound. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

On a personal note, I am privileged to reside here in Long Beach - at the State University House. My wife Karen and I recently purchased and leased out another Long Beach home for the day the trustees say “enough” for me. She and I both have academic appointments at Cal State Long Beach, and my youngest son is in the Long Beach public schools. We are proud to call Long Beach our adopted hometown, and we plan to be here for a long time to come.

Public Good

As I look at all of our campuses from the systemwide perspective, I begin to see trends and it gives me a good “big-picture” view of many of the issues that our state is facing. It also helps me stay focused on the CSU’s mission to be a public good that improves and enriches California’s communities. You, after all, are our shareholders.

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

  • We award 47 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in the state and 1/3 of the master’s degrees.
  • 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 pilot the ships in the Long Beach port along with other duties.
  • Half of our undergraduates are Pell grant recipients – a federal grant to students from low-income families.
  • Only 19 percent of our graduates who started as freshmen need to take out loans – compared to the national average of 58 percent for graduates from public universities.
  • 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.

Recently TIME magazine came up with a new metric for assessing schools on value-based standards proposed by the Obama administration.  These standards are not based on past reputation and legacies that used to matter. Rather, 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.

On those terms, Cal State Long Beach was ranked the #10 university in the entire country.

And then when you read down the rest of the list, it sounds like a roll call of CSU campuses.

Coming in at number 21 in the country – Fresno.

Number 22 – Stanislaus.

Number 29 – Dominguez Hills.

Number 30 – San Bernardino.

And they all scored above a place called Harvard.

When I see these figures, I believe the CSU is truly providing meaningful value to our students, and as Californians, you should share pride in this system. For all our warts and wrinkles, we are the nation’s best undergraduate and masters comprehensive university…We are truly the people’s university.

We don’t simply offer an affordable education. We create an impactful and accessible educational experience that yields well-educated graduates for our state.

And when people start looking at colleges and universities through this new lens of accountability and transparency, perhaps it will enhance their perception of what it is we do and how it benefits our communities across the board.

Looking at the big picture right now, what I know for sure is that the best way to continue to contribute to the public good is to make sure that California’s employers have enough well-prepared graduates who are ready to work and do the job right.

Several estimates show that California is going to need 1 million additional college graduates by 2025 – about 60,000 additional graduates per year.

That’s a demand that’s going to fall heavily on the CSU and its campuses because we grant more baccalaureate degrees in the state than anyone else.

And the demand for a college education is there. This year we received the largest number of applications we have ever received for fall 2014 admissions – roughly 760,000 applications from 284,000 students – an increase of nearly 10 % from two years ago.

In fact, Cal State Long Beach received more applications than any other CSU campus with over 56,000 first-time freshman applications. That number is mind-boggling – and it’s the 5th highest in the country.

CSU Priorities

How are we going to manage this growing demand?

We’re going to do it by focusing 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.

We are going to balance the access/quality equation so that we serve as many students as we possibly can without compromising the quality of the education we’re able to provide.

To that end, the CSU is preparing to invest an additional $50 million in seven key areas designed directly to advance student achievement and high quality degree completion. 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 – Today, about half of each entering class comes from the California community colleges

Why are we focused on these issues? Because there’s a public good embedded in each of them

And by making these our priorities, we telegraph to our students and to our greater community that we value an education that is real-world-focused, community-focused, and future-focused.

Our students have cultural competence, they are analytical problem-solvers, they are resilient and flexible, and they have grit.

Consider the students from Cal State Long Beach’s Disabled Student Services, who worked with Mitsubishi Electric and GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles to install a solar electric Diamond Kit system on the roof of a low-income family’s North Long Beach home. The solar system will cover about 86 percent of the family’s energy needs…and the family says they will use the savings toward their daughter’s higher education. 

Right there is an example of how community service – one of our “high-impact practices” can enrich a student’s education while benefiting others. It’s a perfect example of the cyclical nature of paying it forward to the community.

There’s also the Long Beach Trauma Recovery Center that opened just last month. It’s a partnership between Cal State Long Beach and St. Mary’s Medical Center to provide counseling to crime victims that don’t usually seek help. It will be a true community effort that involves professionals across multiple disciplines and all facets of the city’s support networks.

It represents the very best of what our universities can do to provide services to those people who need it the most.

And where are you likely to hear about news stories like these? Probably on the Daily 49er Radio News on KBeach, which recently won the Best Radio News Public Affairs Program of 2013 from the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California. What an incredible honor for these students to be recognized by the industry they are hoping to enter.

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.

That’s why, when people ask about the total cost of this $50 million commitment, I reply it is not a cost.  It is an investment in all of our students and the productive lives that they go on to live.

The cost to California will occur if we don’t do it.  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 business and community organizations like the ones that you represent.

And we will continue to streamline the transition between all of our educational segments – particularly between community colleges and the CSU – to help more students attain the degrees they seek and California needs.

Through our new community college transfer degree program, we guarantee admission for students who earn the transfer degree. This means that a student could go to Long Beach City College and earn a special transfer degree – and if you meet CSU eligibility guidelines you will be guaranteed admission to a CSU campus.

The CSU conferred about 1,100 of these degrees last spring and we are looking forward to adding even more graduates this year. And we are opening up courses on other campuses through technology – allowing concurrent cross-campus enrollment for the first time without ever leaving your zip code.


Let me finish with one simple statement: We care about the impact we make in the individual lives of our students, and we know that impact is only the first ripple in the pond of their community.  This community.

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 produce 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 our journey together with all of you here in Long Beach.

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