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Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
CSU “Super Sunday”
Oakland, CA
February 18, 2007

Thank you, Bishop Jackson. And thank you all for joining us for this special presentation. It is great to be back in Oakland for another Super Sunday. My colleagues and I are at 18 churches throughout the Bay Area this morning, so we are in good company today.

Over the past year, I’ve learned that there’s at least one thing we all have in common: We share a dream that more of our young people will get on a college track and succeed. We all have personal reasons for wanting this to happen. We want to see our children, our grandchildren, and our friends and neighbors’ children go on to college.

But we also have bigger reasons to want our children to get an education.

We want to make our communities stronger. We want to watch our neighborhoods thrive. We want our economy to flourish.

In the past, college might have been optional. But these days, a college degree is the very least you need to get a good job and succeed in the workforce.

These days, employers want workers who understand technology, who know how to think and communicate globally. They want the kind of experience and opportunities that come from a college education.

Not to mention that college graduates make more money. A college degree could mean nearly twice as much during a person’s lifetime - $2 million versus $1 million for a high school graduate. College graduates also tend to give back to their communities in greater numbers.

I truly believe that education is the cornerstone of a healthy society. That’s why I want to make sure that we are getting all of our future students on track as soon as possible.

CSU Role

I’m proud of the role that the California State University plays in educating African-American students.

We are the most diverse university system in the country, with more than 54 percent students of color. On our 23 campuses, we enroll more than 25,000 African-American students. We are a friendly place for African-American students.

In fact, I know we have a few Cal State students and Cal State alums here in the audience. Would you please stand so we can recognize you?

Thank you all for being such an inspiration.

But I know we need to do even more. In “The Covenant for Black America,” Tavis Smiley gives some statistics on the big picture:

  • Of black 16- to 24-year-olds, 13 percent have not earned a high school diploma or GED; 7 percent of white young people are without a high school credential.
  • In 2000, 31 percent of African Americans ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in colleges and universities; nearly two-thirds of those students were female.
  • The nationwide college graduation rate for enrolled black students is only 40 percent, compared to 61 percent of white students.

At the CSU, we want to make certain that more African-American students are eligible. And given that we enroll almost two African-American women for every African-American man, we want to do more to reach out to and engage our young men.

We also need do to more than just open our doors. We have to make sure that our students make it all the way through to the degree.

Graduation is what it’s all about.

Steps to College

We have lots of information available to parents and students. But our challenge is getting it to the right people. So – parents and students – here's what you can do:

One — Read our "How to Get to College" poster. This poster spells out all of the steps that a student needs to prepare for college, beginning in middle school. We will have this poster available afterwards for anyone who is interested.

Two — All students should take the full college prep curriculum, known as the A-G requirements. Even if you are not planning on going to college, this curriculum will give you a solid grounding in the basics and prepare you for the workforce.

Three — Get on a computer and log in to the Cal State web site: That web site will point you to CSU Mentor, which will help you get all the information you need to plan for and apply to college.

Four — Learn all you can about financial aid. We are extremely lucky to be in California because our university fees are low and our financial aid programs are very generous. But students need to know where to apply and when. There is a priority deadline coming up for the federal financial aid application on March 2. CSU Mentor can tell you all about how to meet that deadline.

Five — Take the Early Assessment Test in the 11th grade. This is a voluntary test that is an extension of the California Standards Test that students already have to take. It’ll take 30 minutes extra. But those 30 minutes can save you an entire year. It will let you know if you need to do more work in your senior year to get up to speed on English or math.

We also have web sites to support students in English and math. Again, you can find all of the information on CSU Mentor.

Making a Difference

In the past year, we’ve had some good success with outreach efforts. We’ve held meetings with leaders from the African-American, Latino, Native American, and Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We’ve listened to suggestions for how we can better reach under-represented students. And the results show that we’re starting to make a difference.

As of last week, the applications we received for Fall 2007 were up by 12 percent for African American students. They were also up by 15 percent for Latino students; and by 13 percent for Native American students.

But again, we still have lots of work to do. “The Covenant for Black America,” gives a few concrete suggestions for what every single person can do right now:

  • Read to your children or grandchildren every day.
  • Create clean, quiet spaces for your children to do homework, and check to make sure that their assignments are completed.
  • Get library cards for everyone in your family
  • Arrange family and neighborhood activities like museum visits, educational games, spelling bees, and science fairs.
  • Become involved in your children’s school through the PTA, school committees, and back-to-school events. If you don’t have children in school, become a volunteer.
  • Hold all leaders and elected officials responsible and demand that they change current policy.

At the CSU, we know that we could use more mentors for young people.

When we ask successful people what made a difference in their lives, the common response was that they all had some kind of mentor, whether it be a coach, or a counselor, or a pastor, or a family friend.

We also need role models, such as K-12 teachers and faculty members who look like the students they are teaching. At the CSU, we have programs such as loan forgiveness programs for students who want to become teachers, and the doctoral incentive program for students who want to go on to become faculty members.

I ask each of you to ask yourselves if you can be a mentor or a role model in a student's life. I believe that if we are going to bring higher education to the next generation of students, we all need to be involved.

In the wise words of Dr. Cornel West: "You can’t lead our people if you don’t love our people. You can’t save our people if you won’t serve our people."

If we can meet this challenge, we will realize a dream that we share in common with each other and with our children.

And our children deserve no less.

Thank you, Bishop Jackson, and thank you to all of you for having me here – for what I hope will be just one of many more "Super Sundays."

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