OC Forum

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
OC Forum
Irvine, CA
October 30, 2013

Thank you so much, Henry (Mendoza), and also to Nancy (Dooley) and the rest of the OC Forum team here. Henry, thank you for your leadership as a principled trustee.

It is a great honor to be here in Orange County and to have a chance to talk about the future of higher education: quality and impact, demand versus capacity, and innovations for the future.

Earlier this month the California State University campus presidents and I had a meeting at a major technology company. One of the people who talked to us was the company’s “futurist,” who gave us a glimpse at some of the amazing technological advances that lie ahead.

Here’s just one example: Can you see my fountain pen? Do you think you might want one like it?

In the future, if I wanted to give you one, I would put it in a special box that’s kind of like a futuristic 3-D copy machine, push a few buttons. It would “print” one for you, and a few minutes later you would receive an exact duplicate in a similar box that you have at your house.

Imagine how easy that would make it to order from Amazon, or from Target, or wherever you are shopping. Or if you need a kidney.

Imagine how that would change the whole way we look at purchasing and receiving goods and services.

That’s the same kind of paradigm shift that we are looking at in higher education right now.

Quality and Impact

The California State University is an incredible economic engine:

  • 440,000 students, 44,000 faculty, 23 campuses plus off-campus centers.
  • Nation/world’s largest bachelor’s and graduate comprehensive university.
  • Emphasis on the learning environment and research directed to societal concerns.

We granted more than 100,000 degrees in the past year.

  • One in 10 California employees is a CSU graduate.
  • Our graduates finish at the CSU with significantly lower debt than their counterparts at other state universities, and with higher average starting salaries. Less than 40% of first-time freshmen have debt; the California public average is 51% and the national public average is 47%.
  • Our tuition and fees are among the lowest in the nation. The “rack rate” is about $6,500, and the average rate is $3,200 after financial aid.
  • Our alumni are innovators, movers, shakers, and leaders.

In fact, I know that many of you are CSU alumni as well. Will you raise your hand if you attended Cal State Fullerton? There are 145,000 alumni within 50 miles of the campus. Thank you – please keep your hands up.

Now raise your hands if you graduated from any California State University campus. Thank you. It’s great to see so many of you here today.

Demand Versus Capacity

But the demand for the CSU’s services outstrips our capacity to serve all the students who want to attend our campuses.

Between Fall 2010 and Fall 2012, the CSU had to turn away more than 250,000 eligible California students. That’s enough to fill up about five and a half Anaheim stadiums.

CSU Fullerton had to turn away more than 25,000 eligible students during that time period. That’s enough to fill up the Honda Center one and half times.

And in fall 2013, CSU Fullerton had to turn away an additional 18,000 eligible students. Keep in mind that this is a campus that makes exceptionally strong use of its university assets, leverages online instruction, and has expanded its Irvine campus center.

Part of our enrollment crunch has to do with the deep budget cuts we, and everyone else in this room, have suffered in the past several years.

At one point the CSU system had experienced about $1 billion dollar in funding reductions, which is the equivalent of about one-third of our budget. We regained about half with tuition increases.

This year, we finally started seeing things turn around when we received a small funding increase. With the beginning of the state’s reinvestment, our systemwide funded enrollment will increase by about 6,000 students over the course of the year – still not enough to accept all qualified applicants.

Nevertheless, we continue to face a difficult challenge: When we have more demand than capacity, what are our choices? Is it a choice of serving students or turning them away?

Turning them away is clearly not a good option. We know all of the benefits of higher education, not least of which is higher income.

Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, a million dollars more over a lifetime than those with just a high school degree. College-educated individuals also have lower rates of unemployment, better health care, pay more taxes, have more civic involvement, and use fewer criminal justice and social services.

Not to mention that the careers of tomorrow are more demanding and a higher education has become more necessary in the workforce.

And the need for our universities continues to be strong. People want new skills. They want to get better jobs. They want to get ahead.

That’s why we simply can’t just hang up a “Closed” sign and turn away students who want to attend our universities. We need to face the demand/capacity problem head-on by challenging the old model for education. We need to create the university equivalent of discovering that 3-D copying box.

We have begun exploring all sorts of ways to impart information, and making a lot more out of what we have.


This year, with some additional state funding, we are trying to bend the cost curve while we increase capacity.

For starters, we are emphasizing high-impact practices such as service learning, undergraduate research, peer mentoring, and intensive writing seminars to support efforts that have a demonstrated influence on retention and graduation.

The idea is to help our students make the most of their time with us and succeed in completing their goals in a timely fashion.

We also launched a systemwide digital textbook program called CSU Rent Digital that allows students to rent digital copies of their textbooks. This can save students as much as 60 percent on what they might have normally spent on college textbooks – which makes the classes far more affordable.

The CSU is also investing $10 million in alleviating in what we call the “bottleneck” problem. That’s a problem we are facing as some of the major entry-level courses and prerequisites get too full. Students can’t get into the class, but they need those classes to continue. So we’re addressing the bottleneck problem with an emphasis on technology solutions.

This fall, 11 campuses are offering more than 30 fully online courses to students at other CSU campuses.  Students will also find flipped classrooms and hybrid courses, all using technology to enhance the student experience in a rapidly changing environment.

Over the summer, we also held a series of “e-Academies” to help train faculty on some of the newest online pedagogies. Cal State Fullerton took the lead on two of those subject areas – in chemistry and in math – and provided training in new learning strategies to faculty at more than 14 campuses.

CSU Fullerton on Cutting Edge

In fact, I think Cal State Fullerton deserves a lot of credit for its own advancements. Millie and her team have done an incredible job in cutting-edge academics and leadership across the community.

You’ve probably heard their saying, “Titans Reach Higher.” I had a chance to visit the Fullerton campus earlier this year and I might even change it to, “Titans Reach Higher Than You’d Ever Imagine.”

  • Cal State Fullerton is Orange County’s 10th largest employer
  • It is an economic powerhouse in Orange County and beyond, generating $1.05 billion in economic activity, and supporting 8,947 jobs in the region.
  • It is first in California and fourth in the nation among top colleges and universities awarding bachelor's degree to Hispanics.
  • Its students perform 1.4 million hours of community service each year.
  • In 2012-2013, its faculty members garnered more than $22 million in grants for their research.
  • The number of graduate degrees earned at CSUF in 2012-13 has increased by 11 percent in the past five years.
  • Bachelor’s degrees in the high demand fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – which we call STEM - have increased by 9 percent at CSU Fullerton in the last five years.
  • Graduate degrees in STEM fields have increased by 18 percent over the same time period.

And here’s just one example of campus research that’s on the cutting edge:

Faculty and student researchers at Cal State Fullerton’s new Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center are working on the first-ever detection of gravitational waves.

Joshua Smith, assistant professor of physics, directs the center. He is the recipient of a $450,000 National Science Foundation Early Career Development Program award.

It’s the teachers like Professor Smith who keep propelling us forward and challenging the way we do things. And as his awards attest, it’s not simply about moving ahead; it’s about maintaining excellence and the highest academic standards.

Looking Forward

Looking ahead, although the CSU doesn’t have someone with the title of “futurist,” there’s a degree to which the campus presidents and I have to wear that hat every day.

We are looking past the current buildings, past the current curriculum, past the current teaching models, to envision a future that is more digital, connected, and interactive.

Each day, we are asking questions like this:

  • Could there be a time when a student never even leaves his or her home to take classes? Perhaps the students in the class could all see each other on a special interactive screen that would allow complete conversations and discussions among people in vastly different locations.
  • Could a student teacher have a live interactive consultation with his or her professor while in a K-12 classroom?
  • Could students participate in virtual fieldwork or exploration that would allow them to hold a job and explore Mayan ruins at the same time – or vice versa?

We are picturing all of these ideas and more, every day, as we strive to make the CSU system the best at what it does. We want to stay meaningful, relevant, and most of all connected to California’s needs.

And that means both innovating and listening to the concerns and needs of all of you and others in our community.

I hope that you will keep the CSU and Cal State Fullerton in mind as you hire graduates and develop partnerships. And I hope you will let us know if there are better ways we can serve you moving forward into the future.

I am so very honored to be here and to have had time to talk with you about quality, demand and capacity, and innovations. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.