Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White - October 3, 2019

Remarks by Timothy P. White (as prepared)
Chancellor, The California State University
Postsecondary Value Commission
Welcome Remarks
California State University, Fullerton
October 3, 2019

Thank you, Millie – and welcome home.

As many of you may know, Millie previously served as Cal State Fullerton’s president, following five years as president of CSU Dominguez Hills – about 20 miles west of here… or, about a two-hour drive.

It’s a great pleasure to welcome the Postsecondary Value Commission to California and to the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

The Commission’s work to help define, measure and communicate the value of higher education – thereby supporting students and families from all backgrounds in making informed choices for their future – is both noble and necessary… especially given the issues of affordability and access that we are grappling with as a nation.

At the CSU, we also spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to drive value… for our students, their families and communities and – indeed – our state and nation. There are many entry points to the conversation: tuition and overall cost of attendance… graduates’ projected earnings… the ROI of a particular degree… civic engagement – all important; all worthy of careful analysis.

But at its essence, I believe the CSU’s truly unique value proposition, for all our stakeholders, lies in our ability to deliver personalized education at scale.

The CSU educates over 480,000 students. More than half are students of color. Forty-three percent receive Pell Grants and one-third are the first in their families to attend college. The CSU awards approximately half of the state’s bachelor’s degrees every year. One in 10 California employees has a Cal State degree.

Our great challenge? To personalize the educational experience for what is the nation’s largest and most ethnically and economically diverse student body.  

It starts with meeting our students where they are, challenging them to attain a high bar of academic achievement, while providing them with the holistic support they need to meet that challenge.

What “meeting our students where they are” looks like is as varied and diverse as our students themselves. It could mean:

  • Recognizing that students arrive at the CSU with different levels of preparation… and providing these students with any additional academic support they may need to be successful in their college-level courses.
  • Or it could mean helping students who are food or housing insecure meet their basic needs.
  • Or providing robust mental health services for our most vulnerable students. 
  • Or, it might look like fostering welcoming, inclusive campus environments, with space and programming to support first-generation students and students of color – and ensuring that these students see themselves in faculty and campus leadership that reflect their dynamic diversity and life experiences.

While their needs are varied, our students uniformly – and powerfully – demonstrate that when challenged and supported, they have the intellect, drive and grit to overcome any obstacle to their success.  Indeed, across the CSU, completion rates are at all-time highs. Students are earning their degrees more quickly, saving time and money, and entering California’s workforce faster, increasing their lifetime earning potential.

Perhaps most important, equity gaps between historically underserved students and their peers are closing.

That is the power of personalized education at scale… and it underpins the CSU’s value proposition. It is a powerful engine for social mobility, elevating students and their families through the life-changing opportunities provided by higher education.

And it brings value to California, which requires an increasingly educated workforce to drive its economic prosperity – and which is facing a projected deficit of 1.1 million bachelor degree holders by 2030.

As you embark on your discussions over these next two days, I know you will be considering a number of critical goals: student success… social mobility… equity of opportunity. However, I believe that connecting and supporting all of these is this idea of personalized education at scale. To truly harness – and convey – the value of education… we must recognize the myriad differences among students… and the need to provide individualized support as we guide them along their unique paths to success. Only by doing so can we ensure that all students – no matter their backgrounds – achieve the full value of a college degree.

Again, welcome to Cal State Fullerton… and thank you for your vital and necessary work on behalf of America’s current and future students and their families.