San Francisco Chamber, CityBeat

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
San Francisco Chamber, CityBeat
San Francisco, CA
March 4, 2015

Thank you President Wong. I’m happy to be in San Francisco.

Les and I both have the tremendous privilege of serving the California State University – thereby serving the people of California.

Thank you as well to Bob Linscheid. Bob recently completed his distinguished service as the alumni trustee and as chair of the CSU Board of Trustees. He is a tremendously powerful voice for CSU alumni, for the Bay Area, and for business, and for the entire state of California.

The CSU is inseparable from this state. We prosper together, and there can be no greater example of that potential for prosperity than here in the San Francisco Bay Area… a region that is among the best educated in the nation and consequentially the world’s 19th largest economy based on the talent pool.

In fact, I want to acknowledge the many CSU alumni who are here today. Thank you for being CSU ambassadors – for carrying the CSU legacy into your community and workplace.

You may not know this, but you are part of the Class of 3 Million. The Class of 3 Million is a celebration culminating during spring commencement of this year. This celebration recognizes the system reaching a milestone of three million living alumni who are making their mark in the world. Alumni like you.

The Bay Area Council’s Economic Institute recently recognized the interconnection between public higher education and prosperity… something to which all CSU, UC and community college alumni in this room can attest. You sprinkle that with the region’s private & faith-based institutions… that’s a powerful potion for the future.

In a report entitled Reforming California’s Public Higher Education for the 21st Century, the Bay Area Council presented many points worthy of consideration on how public higher education could address the needs of this century and beyond.

I will take up three of those points later, yet I wanted to share upfront what I took away as the core argument of the Bay Area Council report. That argument is that boosting access to public higher education – and ensuring those who start an education successfully complete a high-quality degree and into the workforce – is essential to California’s continuing prosperity. And great communities – like San Francisco – need to do more on fostering this interdependent ecosystem.  We all share responsibility.

The California State University agrees. And recognizing our central role in shaping the state’s future, CSU students, faculty and staff recently rededicated ourselves to this mission: to empower success through educational opportunity matched with quality.

From high tech to hospitality management… from arts and entertainment to business administration… and from education to social services… the CSU is empowering human potential by adhering to our simple – yet profoundly important – mission.

I’m sure Les could highlight countless ways that San Francisco State drives this region and pushes the boundary of human knowledge forward every single day… whether it is by having one of the nation’s top film schools, by addressing the issue of workforce diversity in biomedical research, or by finding hundreds of exoplanets orbiting distant stars.

San Francisco State is an institution of excellence… and this excellence is only enhanced by the fact that it is joined by 22 excellent sister campuses.

Consider this… two CSU’s are in the top ten universities worldwide for the number of alumni working at Apple. San Jose State is number one and San Francisco State is number seven. Consider the influence the alumni talent from San Jose and San Francisco have on the development of today’s technological innovation. Technology, like California, is powered by the CSU.

Or consider the influence of the smallest CSU campus, the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. Ninety-four percent of Cal Maritime graduates secure jobs in their fields immediately after graduation, many in the six figures.

These Cal Maritime graduates are employed in every link of the supply chain, including at seaports all around the country… which cumulatively handle nearly $4 billion worth of goods moving in and out of the U.S. per day.

Trade, like California, is powered by the CSU.

Or consider the fact that approximately one in ten employees in California is a CSU graduate.  Ten percent of the world’s 8th largest economy.

In fact, the 3 million California State University alumni constitute one in 20 U.S. degree holders. These alumni can be found in every state of the union. The community of CSU alumni is national… make that global.

Last week I was with CSU alumni in Washington, D.C. and New York. These alumni were elected leaders, staff, non-profit leaders and public advocates. Similarly, I’ve met countless CSU alumni serving in Sacramento.
Public service, like California, is powered by the CSU.

The CSU has achieved much in the last five decades. The university has lived up to its purpose in the California Master Plan for Higher Education. Yet increasingly, the CSU has been deprived of the state funding and resources needed to continue advancing California’s future.

In fact, state funding per student in real dollars has dropped to historic lows. And tuition increases – which inflict real pain on the students and families who have to pay them – have failed to make up the difference for this precipitous drop in public funding.

But it is time for a reality check… or perhaps better said, our check on reality… the people of the CSU are in fact doing more for less. This isn’t just a feeling. It is CSU’s reality.

To be fair, the state is slowly increasing its support for the CSU. The multi-year plan that has been put forward by the Governor’s administration increases half of the CSU budget by about four percent per year. Many of you are probably doing the math in your head right now – but what the state is promising actually amounts to an approximately two percent annual increase in our overall operating funds… less than fixed-cost increases.

Providing the CSU with just enough resources to scrape by at historically low levels isn’t restoration – it is a recipe for stagnation.

And at the same time, the state of California approaches a drought of one million college graduates by 2025. In ten years, the state will be one million bachelor’s degrees short of the needs of the industries that provide the lifeblood of California’s economy and tax base let alone social equity and mobility. This shortage of educated workers is as grave as the state’s water shortage – if not more so.

So these trend lines are working at cross purposes. A precipitous drop – followed by stagnation – of public funding is being met with a sharp increase in public demand for higher education. It is clear that this situation is not sustainable.

This is the context for the report of the Bay Area Council on public higher education for the 21st Century which I mentioned earlier. The report made several suggestions in its Call to Action, of which I will address these three:

  • Better link academics to workforce needs
  • Improve planning, alignment and coordination between community colleges, the CSU and the UC
  • And stabilize and strengthen state support

To better link academics to workforce needs, the CSU has engaged many industry leaders in a variety of advisory boards, research collaboratives and working groups.

For example, the executive director of the CSU Entertainment Industry Initiative is a faculty member here at San Francisco State. She is working closely with a board of entertainment leaders and experts to advise campuses to ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the industry. The initiative also coordinates internships, with the goal of placing 400 CSU students as interns in the entertainment industry by the end of this year.

This is one way all of you can be part of empowering student success. Notify the campus or the system of internship opportunities. Volunteer to serve as a guest lecturer or as a mentor. Partner with campuses to ensure that students have access to the latest tools in your industry.

In these ways, and many more, you are an indispensable part of the CSU community.

To improve planning, alignment and coordination between systems of public higher education, the CSU has engaged with colleagues at all levels of the institution.

I am in constant communication with UC President Janet Napolitano and Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris. We’ve discussed several opportunities to increase collaboration that reduce costs while sustaining or increasing quality.

Perhaps the most visible of the collaborations between systems is the Associate Degree for Transfer, which guarantees junior status to students who transfer for the community college to the CSU within a particular program. These pathways reduce course duplication and the accumulation of excess units – saving students and the state time and money. 

Yet, this program is just one of many bridges between the segments of public education.

Given the CSU’s regional distribution, we are often organizing partners of initiatives that can extend beyond higher education to include partners in K through 12 and in the community… programs like SF Promise, which guarantees a place at San Francisco State for San Francisco public school students who make the grade.

These types of regional partnerships are often paired with direct support for students to prepare them for college. For example, Mathematics Achievement Academies organized by Cal State East Bay provide four-week intensive training in Algebra and Geometry for middle and high school students. The goal is to increase students’ comfort and knowledge in these subjects – and to foster an interest in studying science, technology, engineering and math.

Finally, to stabilize and strengthen state support, the CSU has engaged our entire community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, partners and friends – to press lawmakers to stand with the CSU.

A major part of our appeal is the fact that the CSU is doing its part to enhance student success. The university has committed, as a community, to raising our graduation rates in the coming decade. The result will be 100,000 more degree-holding Californians than we otherwise would have. This goal would take the community of CSU alumni from 3 million to 4 million by 2025.

This goal is a good start, but addressing the coming education drought will require an even more extreme change in trajectory. And opening the channels of educational opportunity will demand additional commitment and resources, here in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.

The public good of the California State University will only be made possible by the public investment of the State of California. At the end of the day, we all – the state, the university and the business community – share common cause in seeing more students succeed at higher rates, so they can go on to design California’s future.

Let me conclude by thanking those who have, and encourage those who have not, to serve as:

  • As a mentor for students… and by creating opportunities for applied learning through internships
  • As a partner and adviser in regional collaborations with educational segments
  • And as our advocate and our ambassador with your colleagues in the business community and with political leaders

By taking these actions, you harness the power of the CSU – and the strength of our 3 million alumni – to work for the good of your industry, for the good of the San Francisco Bay Area and for the good of California.

Thank you