Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
Hunt Institute for Emerging Issues
Raleigh, NC
February 2, 2007

Thank you, Jim Phillips, Governor Hunt, and others for the opportunity to speak.

I’ve known and worked with Governor Hunt since 1978, and I know that he is unique in his passion, commitment, and dedication to improve his state and the rest of the country.

He is correct when he talks about the challenge that California, North Carolina, and all of higher education in this country is going to face in the next 15 to 25 years.

Our challenge will be to reach students from traditionally underserved populations who are on the brink of becoming a majority population in this country. Many of these students are our most economically needy students.

If we don’t go out of our way to serve those students – many of who are the first in their families to attend college – we will miss the opportunity to serve a growing portion of our states and of the U.S. population.

If we don’t face this challenge directly, our universities will become obsolete, our workforce will suffer, and our businesses and economy will pay the price. This means that our communities will decline, and our standard of living will decline.

One thing that’s for certain is that our universities can no longer take a passive approach to outreach or admissions. We can’t wait for students to come to us. We need to get out of our comfort zones and go directly into the community to reach students.

We have to go out and find people who might not speak English as a first language, whose parents or grandparents may never have been to a college campus, and whose school district maybe hasn’t paid attention to their needs.

The California State University

The California State University is a good testing ground for this challenge. We are the largest and most diverse university system in the country, with approximately 435,000 students on 23 campuses.

Currently our total minority student enrollment is more than 54 percent. Compared to many universities around the country, we do a pretty good job of attracting and enrolling students from traditionally under-represented groups.

However, according to California’s Master Plan for Higher Education, the CSU was established to accept the top third of California’s high school graduates.

During the past 20 years, the eligibility rate for African-American and Latino students has been only about half the California Master Plan standard.

For example, in 2003, Latinos made up 34 percent of all California high school graduates, but only 16 percent were eligible for admission to the CSU. This means that the remaining students did not take the required courses for college preparation.

African-American students make up a much smaller segment of the student population in California than they do in North Carolina, about 7 percent. But we have a similar problem with African-American students – particularly males – becoming eligible for the CSU.

We know that we have to reach these students early to expand the pool of eligible students and increase their graduation rates. That’s why we have created a number of collaborative projects with our K-12 and community college counterparts:

  1. The "Steps to College" poster, a poster offered in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese, spells out what middle and high school students need to do to prepare for college. You all should have a copy of the poster in your packets.
  2. The Early Assessment Program. This allows 11th grade students to take a test to assess their college readiness in English and math. With this “early signal,” they can spend their last year in high school filling any academic gaps. We’ve established special web sites (www.csumathsuccess.org and www.csuenglishsuccess.org ) to help students and teachers with these subjects.
  3. Our Community Outreach Forums help us learn more from community members about how we can better serve California’s students. We’ve held meetings across the state with leaders from Latino and other ethnic communities. We’ve also held a very successful series of “Super Sunday” events promoting college awareness at African-American churches. We estimate that we’ve reached more than 30,000 African-American community members through these events. And we have two more events – in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco Bay Area – scheduled for this month.
  4. Our partnership with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) (P-K) helps strengthen parent involvement in elementary and middle school students’ education. During the nine-week PIQE training program, parents learn how to improve their child’s performance in the classroom and identify steps to help their child attend a college or university.
  5. Our partnership with the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute on a grant from The Sallie Mae Fund helps us bring the Kids to College program to sixth graders in underserved communities near CSU campuses. These students spend time on campus and learn about planning for college and careers.
  6. Our online application service, CSU Mentor, allows students to do "one-stop shopping" for planning their high school coursework, applying for admission, and applying for financial aid.
  7. We’re taking a leadership role in the statewide Troops to College program, which has developed an academic outreach and enrollment plan to help the 60,000 veterans who come home to California each year.

Beyond The University

Aside from what we are doing at the California State University, there’s far more that we all need to do in California and North Carolina, and everywhere in between:

  • We need to continue to support and advocate for federal outreach programs such as Upward Bound, GEAR-UP, TRIO, and others. Middle school students in particular need our attention because many decide to drop out in those years, and they don’t tell anyone.
  • We need to address curricular problems at the middle and high school levels. The CSU has been deeply involved in an effort to make sure that all California students have access to a college prep curriculum. We also need to look at the lack of reading and reading comprehension skills among many students, and at the low-level math courses that do little if anything to prepare students for college-level work.
  • We need to help recruit more Latino and African-American students to be teachers in public schools, so that more students have teachers who look like themselves. This means developing networks and building our own pipeline to define career pathways for talented individuals.
  • We need to recruit more Latino and African-American faculty and staff at our university campuses.
  • We need to show business and industry that it works to their benefit to support access. We must engage as many of these kinds of partners as we can to ensure success in the community.

Some of our early results show that we are making good progress on outreach at the CSU. At the end of our priority open enrollment period on December 1, the applications we received from Latino students were up by 15 percent, and applications from Native American and African American students were up by 12 percent each.

That said, we still know that we have more work to do, and the issues before us are extremely complicated.

One issue I know is of particular concern in North Carolina and California is allowing undocumented students the opportunity to reach higher education without paying out-of-state tuition.

In California, these students may not have been born in the U.S., but many of them came here when they were as young as 4 or 5, and they can’t apply for citizenship until they are 18. These children have attended California public schools for 12 years, and some have done very well. But when they used to apply to the California State University, they were told they had to pay out-of-state fees

California went ahead and changed that law. Today at the CSU, we say – If you have completed four successful years of high school that you can show on a transcript, and you meet our entrance standards, then you do not have to pay out-of-state tuition.

I believe this is a fair and compassionate way to address this issue for our students.

I want to close with one thought about what can happen if we don’t find new and better ways to reach out to underserved populations.

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education estimates that the personal income of Americans will drop in the next 15 years unless states do a better job of raising the educational level of all racial and ethnic groups.

This tells me just how imperative it is that we reach our underserved populations.

It’s going to be a challenge for educators, but it’s a responsibility that everyone – community leaders, businesses, churches, elected officials – will all have to share.

Our communities and our economy are depending on us, and I hope we can measure up to that challenge.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak here this morning.


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