It is more important than ever that we speak up about the value of higher education to Californiaís future. I am sure you have heard in the news about the impact of state budget cuts to the California State University over the past several years, but I recently received some information that I found truly disturbing.
The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year would provide between $1.8 and $2 billion in state funding for the CSU. That may sound like a lot, but letís put it in perspective. It is roughly the same amount of state funding provided back in 1997 and 1998. During that same period, enrollment at the 23 CSU campuses grew from 327,000 to about 400,000. Talk about doing more with less!
Here is another disturbing fact I learned. While many believe the recent hikes in tuition have made up the shortfall, this is not so by a long shot. Since 2008, state funding to the University was slashed by $968 million. As painful as the tuition hikes were for students and families, they only made up for $593 million of the shortfall.
So it is as important as ever for us to speak up for CSULB and the entire University system. In a time of scarce state budget resources, it is especially important people are aware what the system is doing to be more efficient and effective, and in particular how the University is vital to providing a highly educated work force for California businesses. Since so many state programs are being cut (not just higher education), we need to talk about how the University is striving to more efficiently invest scarce taxpayer dollars. Here are highlights of three such efforts:
Early Start. This program requires incoming freshmen, if needed, to attend summer classes to ensure they have met entry level math and English proficiency requirements before the fall semester starts. This helps get them ready to succeed in college level courses.
Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (STAR). This new program will ensure that community college students know ahead of time and have a path to follow so that all of the courses they take will be accepted for transfer to the CSU--in other words, they can graduate with 120 units and no unnecessary non-transferable courses (assuming, of course, they follow the path!).
Graduation Initiative. This initiative is designed to increase the graduation rate from the 2008 rate of 46% (systemwide) to 54% by 2015. Campuses are implementing a variety of programs to focus on graduating higher numbers of students. One example is making personal contact with students who do not re-register after their freshman year and provide them resources to stay in school.
Here is a final disturbing fact that I think is a real eye opener. Among persons 65 and older, California is the 4th most highly educated state; among persons 25 and under we are the 40th. This statistic speaks volumes about our stateís disinvestment in higher education. Because of redistricting and term limits, up to half of the State Assembly is expected to be made up of new members after the November elections. They will need to be educated about the value of CSU to all Californians.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Wherever and whenever you can, whether it be with our local elected officials, friends, neighbors, or the barista at Starbucks, please speak up for CSULB and the entire California State University.