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State of the University Convocation, 2010-2011

President F. King Alexander
(Friday, August 29, 2010)

Thank you, Provost Para, and welcome students, faculty, staff, Board of Governors, Alumni Association Board of Trustees and honored guests to the 2010-2011 academic year at The Beach. I first would like to thank our Chair of the Academic Senate, Professor Lisa Vollendorf, and Provost Para for their very appropriate remarks and for advancing the uniquely collaborative spirit that allows our university to move forward despite the external fiscal circumstances that we have been forced to endure.

It is my distinct pleasure to also welcome you to the 2010-2011 California State University, Long Beach Convocation. Over the years this event has evolved into a very important occasion for our university because it is one of the few times where so many within our campus community can come together in preparation for the upcoming academic year.
Convocation also provides me with an opportunity to share with you some of our recent achievements while discussing many of the issues and new initiatives that will occur during the new academic year. Unfortunately, as has become much too commonplace for us, we begin our fiscal year with over 35 percent of our operational budget being held hostage by our state legislature in Sacramento. I will discuss this in greater depth a bit later in this presentation.

However, I first would also like to welcome our new cohort of tenure-track faculty, visiting faculty and lecturers who bring to us very impressive academic credentials, backgrounds, and diverse talents. Please know that all of our dedicated faculty and staff will certainly do our best to ensure that you get off to a great start in your new careers at Cal State Long Beach.
I also would like to welcome a small cohort of new staff members to our campus family. Unlike manufacturing and other related industries, the strength of great universities is forged with talented human capital. Our people, our faculty and staff, are the reason over 70,000 students applied to our campus this year. Our people are the reason why we continually rank among the best public universities in the nation. And, it is our people, our talented human capital, that have built our institution into the nation's 22nd largest university and placed us among the nation's leaders in graduating new generations of students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

So to all our new faculty and staff joining us this fall, let me offer my sincerest apologies in advance for our internally developed and accepted communication system that we use throughout our campus, called our campus acronyms. CPAC, COTA, RPP, PH1, PH2, COE, CLA, CMNS, HHS, LA3, LA2, CCPE, CITT, FA1, FA2, FA3, and FO1, FO2, FO3. We have taken the use of campus acronyms to such a scientific level that after nearly five years on our campus, I asked my staff last week if I should attend a luncheon that was listed on my schedule as a possible drop by or (PDB), so I could greet everyone and answer any questions about the university. The event was actually listed on my schedule as a luncheon for OTP. I naturally asked what is OTP, and Liz and Coleen from my office looked at each other for a moment, and then told me OTP was simply our acronym for "The Office of the President."

So my point to our new faculty, staff, and students is this: hang in there and don't be afraid to ask. What the heck, I'm still asking!

I also would like to use this opportunity to invite you to our campus "move in" day tomorrow morning where we will welcome and help 2,500 of our residential students and their parents unpack their cars and relocate to their new campus homes. We will start at 10 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. "Move-in" day is also very useful as a "recruitment day" for future engineering students because what many of us quietly tell ourselves time and time again throughout the day is "there is no way on earth all this junk is going to fit into one room." Somehow, they make it work! It truly is an engineering marvel!

The Year in Review

Looking back at last year, I would like to begin by expressing my sincerest gratitude to each and every faculty and staff member for the sacrifices that you made to save hundreds of your colleagues' jobs and to protect over 2,100 classes/sections for our students. Last year at this time, because of a national economic collapse, failed state propositions, failed state fiscal management, and a distorted sense of state priorities, we were staring down the barrel of the largest budget cuts ever forced upon California higher education and the CSU. One year ago just after our Convocation, those budgetary predictions became a reality and we lost 23 percent, nearly $50 million, from our state budget.

Overnight, CSULB went from being 40 percent reliant on state funding to 31 percent reliant on state funding. This meant a $1,200 drop in funding per student, from approximately $6,400 to $5,200 per student. Without your sacrifices which amounted to a 10 percent reduction in pay for everyone, enduring "state budget closure days," managing the complications of "personal furlough days," and many other sacrifices generally not known to the public at-large, we would have had to lay off hundreds of faculty and staff (thousands throughout the CSU system), and further reduce thousands of course offerings on our campus.

For your commitment to your colleagues and our students, once again I would like to thank you for your dedication because it has been our students who have been the true beneficiaries of your efforts.
Additionally, we are all appreciative that so many of you participated in the tough decisions that we had to make by attending open forums, offering suggestions, and participating in thoughtful discussions. Your participation played an essential role in tackling this unwelcome challenge and in the way our university responded. For that, we are also very grateful.

It was because of your commitment and sacrifices this last academic year that we "once again" graduated our largest, most diverse, and most successful graduating class in our 60-year history, with over 8,600 students receiving 9,200 various degrees. Our enhanced campus-wide commitment to graduating our students over the past couple of years has propelled us into the top 25 most productive universities in numbers of graduates, while also elevating our campus as the 6th best university in graduating students from diverse backgrounds. As our graduation rates have also shot up significantly, I am pleased to share with you that we now rank among the top 10 percent among master's universities nationwide in graduating Hispanic/Latino students, African-American students, and Caucasian students, and in the top 20 percent in graduating Asian-American students. This is a very significant accomplishment for us since we have recently been designated not only as a Hispanic Serving Institution, but also as an Asian-American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institution. Furthermore, our graduation standings are even more impressive when considering that we have a much higher percentage of low-income or Pell eligible students than do other master's universities nationwide or, for that matter, public research universities. According to the Education Trust, there are approximately 103 public and private universities nationwide with at least 15,000 undergraduate students or more and Cal State Long Beach ranks 5th in the nation as having the highest percentage of lower-income students or Pell Eligible freshmen. This makes our success that much more impressive and that much more essential to this nation.

Our graduation improvements have even brought us national attention in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Change Magazine and most recently in the Southern Regional Education Board's national publication which featured 15 public universities as models of success in graduating students.

The irony of all of this is that we began tackling this issue four years before a new administration hit Washington making improved graduation rates a national priority. For the last year and a half, the Obama Administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have focused significant attention on the fact that the United States no longer leads the world in higher education access and success rates.
In fact, it is because of our international free fall as being a worldwide leader in higher education from 1960 through the late 1990s that this issue will only receive more statewide and national scrutiny. Furthermore, six months ago the National Governor's Association also prioritized improving college and university graduation as their Number 1 priority.

Both the President's and our nation's governors' primary concerns stem from the following fact that the U.S. has fallen from 2nd in 1999 to 8th in 2007 in bachelor's degree attainment for 25-34 year olds. Additionally, for all higher education degrees we have fallen from 3rd in 1999 to 12th for the same age group. As long as these trends continue for our nation when comparing ourselves to our economically advanced peers worldwide, this issue will only grow in significance.

This national concern has even manifested itself in the form of our CSU systemwide initiative led by Chancellor Reed and the Board of Trustees which is focusing a great deal of time and effort on improving all of our graduation rates and reducing the achievement gaps among student groups. This is why our campus' "Highly Valued Degree Initiative" was instituted last year, not so much as a way to get us focused on this issue, but as a way to reenergize our efforts so that we remain a national leader.

Five years ago we asked that you help us by making this a top campus priority, and you did. So I would like to use this opportunity to thank each of you for your dedicated work and effort on this most critical university goal. Today, we ask you to keep this as our campus' Number 1 priority.

From health to poverty, from lifelong earnings capacity to career satisfaction, and from increased volunteerism to building diverse leadership throughout our statewide and local communities, it has never been more important for our students to finish what they start than it is today.

And I will use a quote that I use each year at this event from The Economist magazine in 1997. When The Economist was asked, "Does Horatio Alger still exist in America?" the response was, "He still exists, but today he must go to college first." I would also add that he or she must finish college.

Furthermore, there are a number of other areas that I would like to recognize for their efforts this past year. First, despite the economic circumstances facing this nation and our state, our Development and University Relations and Alumni Association staff successfully raised nearly $30 million, which represents the 3rd largest fundraising year in our university's history. I would like to thank the University Relations and Development staff along with our dedicated alumni and friends for elevating this campus from being a $20 million per year university to a $30 million per year institution. Our next goal is to raise $40 million annually and beyond.

Second, for all of our faculty and staff who submitted, yet fell a bit short, plus all those who were awarded federal, state, foundation, and other external grants, thanks to your efforts this past year we experienced our most successful year in external grants and contract funding. In 2009-10 our university generated over $45 million in external grants and contracts, which represents a $20 million increase from the previous year.

Third, I would also like to thank the hundreds of faculty and staff on our WASC Reaccreditation efforts which will culminate later this year. We have made great strides since our last visit 10 years ago and this report will help us grow even stronger over the next decade.

Fourth, I am also pleased to once again recognize that our intercollegiate athletic program was one of a very small number of public universities in California to have every one of our 18 athletic teams meet the NCAA's Academic Progress Ratings standard. This measures a team's progress toward graduation and has become the "gold standard" academic measurement by the NCAA. Only UCLA, Berkeley and Long Beach State have accomplished a perfect score for the last three years straight. We do student-athletics the right way at The Beach!

The New Academic Year 2010-2011

Despite the economic circumstances, we open this year with quite a bit more optimism than we did last year at this time. This year we will open three new facilities worth nearly $200 million. Each of these facilities has differentiated funding sources that fortunately were secured just before our nation's and state's economic collapse.

In early October we will open our new School of Nursing teaching and research facility. This $5 million building could not come at a better time for our students and faculty who have worked diligently in a sub-par facility and have graduated over 350 nursing students each year. These funds were generated from a special nursing facility earmark from the Governor's Office and some additional private funding.
This past week we also opened a much anticipated facility, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. This $70 million facility has already begun to transform student life on our campus. In just its first week, we have witnessed nearly 4,000 students, faculty, staff, and alumni per day using the broad array of exercise opportunities. Not since the completion of our Student Union nearly 40 years ago have we seen this kind of widespread student excitement over a new campus facility. And, it was the foresight of our students nearly three years ago who voted to finance this new facility entirely through student fees which will cover the debt service on the building for the next 30 years.

Finally, in January we will begin moving equipment and furniture into our new $110 million Hall of Science facility. This 160,000 square foot facility will consist of 22 research laboratories, 31 teaching laboratories, two 180-seat lecture halls, and two 80-seat lecture halls. Three years ago the citizens of the State of California favorably voted to construct this new facility on our campus to serve all CSULB students.

Each of these new facilities will benefit our students, faculty, staff, and ultimately all Californians by helping us to educate not only more nurses and scientists, but healthier nurses and healthier scientists.
Regarding our state budget, the best way to describe where we stand today is that we are "cautiously optimistic." I believe that we are positioned between the practical reality of not getting an additional state budget cut or reduction and the Governor's request to restore some of the funding cut from us last year. This is primarily because California must return a significant portion of education stimulus funds if the higher education budget is further reduced due to federal "Maintenance of Effort" provisions included in federal stimulus funding. This protection has had a positive impact for higher education in nearly 20 other states as well. Without this new federal leverage, public higher education institutions would have faced even further reductions both last year and this year. Therefore, as we enter this academic year we remain cautiously optimistic about the possibility of getting some restoration funding back to our campus and the CSU.

One of the most significant consequences of the state budget reduction last year is the fact that we had to further reduce our enrollment which hurts student access. In fact, our student FTE reduction of 2,300 students, or 8 percent reduction, means that this fall we will enroll around 33,900 instead of nearly 38,000, which we had two years ago. If we are able to acquire some restored funding from the state, we will be able to slowly open our doors a bit wider to allow for an enrollment increase next year.

On the federal front, we worked to significantly increase student aid and to get the banks out of the student loan business. This means no more banks in the middle of the student loan process. This means no more banks to take nearly $10 billion annually in risk-free student loans. This means that the $10 billion annually can be used by students and academic institutions for educational purposes, which is how it was supposed to be used. And when combined with the impact of the first ever higher education maintenance of effort federal language, which has proven to be a very effective way to hold states more accountable to funding public colleges and universities, it is safe to say that we have had a very good year in Washington, D.C.

Conclusions

In conclusion, I would like to thank you again for your commitment to our students and the civility you have demonstrated to your fellow colleagues. These are very difficult times and an unprecedented period for California, our nation, and particularly all of public education. Under these circumstances, we must continue to work with our public school partners and not forget that California has dropped in its K-12 support to 45th in the nation while student to teacher ratios have climbed to the 2nd highest in the nation.

In public higher education, the issues are even more complicated and stem from our federal policy decisions made nearly 40 years ago. In 1972 with the Congressional passage of a reauthorized Higher Education Act, we opted to bail out and save private higher education in this nation by creating a mission neutral "federal voucher funding system," because it was assumed at the time that our states were there to protect the funding of our public colleges and universities. Unfortunately, few knew that our states would begin abandoning their public higher education responsibilities less than a decade later, creating the fiscal environment that we have today.

Since 1980, when comparing our "State Support Per $1,000 of State Personal Income" or "Tax Effort," our state governments nationwide have reduced their support for higher education by 41 percent. And only 11 other states have reduced their commitments to public higher education more than California. California has become one of the terrible 12 states - or "dirty dozen" - when looking at the last 30 years of funding reductions. Unfortunately, we are on the same path that has decimated our public school funding in California.

While all this has been going on at the state level, the federal system adopted in 1972, which I would call a "mission blind" federal voucher system of funding, has made private higher education so lucrative in this nation that the Department of Education and members of the U.S. Senate can't even rein in the amount of fraud and abuse caused by hundreds of for-profit universities that are springing up on every street corner in America. It has made private higher education so lucrative in America that private university per student expenditures are the most exorbitant in the world. It has made private higher education so lucrative that as I speak to you today, our Public Research I colleagues, including the UC institutions, are lobbying Washington through their national organization, the American Public and Land-Grant University Association, to get the special federal government funding in the form of a new Land-Grant Act, much like the original Land-Grant Act of 1862. The intent is not to better serve the educational needs and expanding demands of this nation, but to simply keep pace with the salaries and per student expenditures of their federally supported private university counterparts.

Let me propose that we make things more simple. Why don't we create a new Land-Grant Act like we did in 1862 that rewards those institutions that meet the greatest public needs? Whether it is through our state funding formulas or a new federal funding policy, reward the universities that have done the best job at controlling their per student expenditures. Reward the universities that have done the best job in remaining affordable for its students. Reward the universities who remain committed to low-income students and other under-represented populations.

Our university, Cal State Long Beach, ranks among the most efficient universities in the nation, most affordable in the nation, while also serving many of the most expensive students in the nation. Furthermore, our outcomes clearly demonstrate that a university's price has nothing to do with the quality of education that it offers. In the most recent national rankings of average mid-career salaries, the mid-career salaries of Cal State Long Beach graduates, including all fields of study, rank higher than the mid-career salaries of graduates of Brandeis University, Smith College, Indiana University, Ohio State, Texas Tech, Michigan State, UMASS-Amherst, Temple, the University of Oregon, Washington State, and the University of Hawaii, just to name a few.

Everyone in this room has put this university in this position to make the logical argument to reform our state funding formulas and to develop new federal policies that reward institutions committed to building the general welfare and common good of this nation.

These difficult decisions are nothing more than societal choices, and we all play a role in making sure that society is making the right societal choices for the betterment of all. I firmly believe that we are the kind of public university that the public wants; however, the public does not know it yet.

Thank you for your dedication to our students, to Cal State Long Beach, and for your commitment to public education. Thank you for your kind attention and patience today and GO BEACH!

And Go Beach!

F. King Alexander
President