California State University Chancellor Timothy White gave his first state of the CSU speech Wednesday, reflecting on the missions and goals of the world’s largest university and announcing a $50 million investment in seven key areas designed to increase student success.
With a record-high 760,000 fall 2014 applications received, White said the funding, which includes tenure-track faculty hiring, enhanced advising and solutions for enrolling in high-demand courses, will improve the educational experience and degree attainment for all students.
“To those who ask about the cost of undertaking this project, I reply it is not a cost; it is an investment,” White said. “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.”
While Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal includes $142.2 million for the CSU, it not only is short of what the Board of Trustees requested in November, but is approximately the same amount the CSU received 20 years ago, while serving 100,000 fewer full-time students.
“Our foundational goals are to provide students with access and completion,” said CSU spokesperson Stephanie Thara. “All these goals will help us serve our mission. If we just put an additional $50 million, we can help our students get to a degree quicker. That’s while we provide quality and access in their education.”
The $50 million will be used to enhance the Graduation Initiative, which includes strategies for improving access, degree completion and graduation rates. Each campus is responsible for presenting quarterly action plans, reforms and proposals designed to meet those goals.
Sheree Meyer, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Sacramento State, said the campus received approximately $500,000 in grants to add faculty advisers and improve the peer mentors program.
“We’re not just interested in the number of graduates,” Meyer said. “It’s important to be data driven, but we don’t want to lose sight of the quality of the degree (and) the quality of the experience.”
CourseMatch, a new program launched last fall making it more convenient for students to enroll in online courses across the CSU, is another initiative White is looking to expand.
Thara said technology will be used to create an interactive learning experience and mentioned the creation of a flip classroom, in which the lecture is viewed at home and homework is completed during class and used to practice concepts.
“These types of integration of technologies allows students to get a more comprehensive learning experience,” Thara said.
Jaxon Ramsel, a senior history major, said he avoids online classes because he prefers to attend class, take notes, engage in discussions and ask follow-up questions.
He said online components are less engaging and more difficult to achieve success due to several nuances, including a reliance on online platforms to recognize precise answers and the preference to view articles and other material online.
“I’m not against technology in any way, shape or form,” Ramsel said. “I embrace technology, but when it comes to learning that one-on-one is a lot easier than an online aspect.”
First developed in 1960, California’s Master Plan for Education defines the specific roles and missions of the University of California, CSU and community colleges. The plan states some form of education should be available to any student regardless of economic means.
With a student body five times larger than in 1960, White said the CSU will focus on improving and investing in people, physical structures and technology.
“Our state is pressed with changing needs and new challenges that the plan’s authors could never have imagined,” White said. “That’s why we will be wise to assess our future through the lens of the master plan, while understanding the need to bring it into the 21st century.”
Ramsel said he plans to enroll in the teaching credential program after he graduates and specifically chose a CSU over a University of California because of its value.
While CSUs graduate 52 percent of California’s teachers, Ramsel said he knew the modest cost would be worth the degree.
White said the CSU is “arguably the best degree in the country for high value and impact to the student, employers, communities and state.”
“It was all monetary not going to a UC,” Ramsel said. “I don’t want to spend tens of thousands when I could spend a couple of thousand. Looking at a degree and an interview, it’s not going to be so much ‘oh well you went to a state and they went to a UC. That means your degree is less.’ You have the same degree.”