Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
National Press Club Newsmakers Press Conference
"Investing in California's Failures or Future"
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Washington, D.C.

I would like to talk a little bit about higher education and the importance of all of us working together to get a new commitment from the state and the national policy leaders and I think that we have got to work to renew and get that new commitment from the policy makers so that we can do our job and we have been too easy on them.

We have let them off the hook for the past several years, and the reason that I say that we need AIM to renew this accountability on our side and their side is that the students of the future, the workforce of the future of America is completely different than what all of us have experienced and this work force and this student group of the future, the new demographics are students of color and mainly come from the underserved communities of this nation and if we don't figure out how to connect these policy makers at the state and federal level to the future of this country, we won't have a competitive work force, we won't have a very well educated citizenry, our communities won't prosper the way that you and I and everybody else wants them to prosper.

I think California is about 12 or 15 years ahead of the rest of the nation, but close behind us are Arizona and Texas, but if you look Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, there are a lot of places where this new student group of underserved students of color are moving with their families and you know trying to enter higher education in the workforce.

I think many of you know this the California State University is the largest 4 year university United States. My good friend Nancy Zim from New York thinks she is but that's because of all of the community colleges. They have 64 community colleges as a part of the Suni system but we're all 4 year institutions. Of that 450,000 students this year 56% of those students are students of color. Mostly, not all, but mostly come from the underserved communities of California.

We have 23 campuses from Humboldt in the North to San Diego in the south and up and down the cost and up and down the San Joaquin Valley. And the California State University plays an important part of the California master plan and our responsibility is to prepare California's work force and that means bachelors and master degree graduates.

Now, having kind of painted this picture, come on in there's $10 bills on the front seats. For the past 18-24 months California has been grappling with a massive budget cut, some have called it a meltdown. We have had to cut 625 million dollars from our budget in the last 18 months. That's 20% of our operating budget from the state.

Now when I say that we have done that over the last 18 months. It made me think of you know my experience in the south, southerners love to tell stories about experiences and when I found out that we had to cut 625 million dollars out of our budget, it reminded me of this country western song and it's about this guy from South Georgia.

Now I spent 27 years in Tallahassee so it was just 10 miles across the border. But this guy was down and out on his luck. He'd lost his job. He lost his car. He was homeless and I was feeling sorry about myself and I said 625 million dollars, so he wrote this country western song and he titled it "I Don't Know Whether to Kill Myself or Go Bowling" [laughter]. Well you know I thought the same thing, but we decided to go bowling, so we put together a plan for the 23 campuses and my college presidents joined me and we saw this coming, and to put that plan together I knew that I had to make everybody unhappy.

So we start down the road and the first thing we had to do was raise tuition, and we raised tuition 32%, that got all the students upset, but now you know here if I tell you that our tuition with the 32% increase is now $4000 total, 2000 each semester, you wouldn't believe that on the east coast but culturally in California all of these people are still living there that only paid 100 bucks to go to Berkeley or San Francisco State 25 years ago, so the culture is not one of tuition. So we did that. Number 2 we have 48,000 employees, 46,000 of them belong to a labor union and so I needed to convince all 48,000 employees to take a 10% pay cut. Now that made all of them unhappy.

On the other hand, we would have had to lay off more than 20,000 people, and the stimulus money saved at least that many jobs if not more, so you know not only did the stimulus money save jobs, but they put a maintenance of effort in for the first time, now George Miller tried to stick it in a couple of other little bills but they put it in there this time, and if you look at all of these states and you array higher education, you will see where that one public policy decision by a legislator has saved higher education in America.

Some states, some legislators cut it down to the dollar of the maintenance of effort, and I think that I know that saved us in California cause they couldn't cut us any more than 625 million dollars. Now, we have the way we took the 10% pay cut was a two day per month furlough. I hate furloughs, they you know cause all kind of problems because we have to operate 24-7 so you gotta have furlough Friday, somebody's off this Friday, not next Friday somebody has to cause you got operate the dormitories, the cafeteriaies, the library you know the university but we were able to work that out.

My hope is that going forward we might not have to do that because the good news is California may have bottomed out, whether or not we're going to start back up and reinvest is the big question. But the governor in January did propose for UC and CSU a 400 million dollar increase in our budget. That's the good news. The bad news is he cut every other budget and state government. The only 2 agencies of government that got an increase was CSU and UC so I've been with Mark Udolf to Sacramento several times since the first of January and we have big targets on our back cause everybody thinks we got their money and when I said that the governor cut he cut 18 billion dollars out of the budget. He cut health care programs, he cut K-12, he cut children's insurance programs, he just whacked them but he gave us an increase.

Now we're not gonna get that whole amount but if we get a big part of it, fine. Now let me kind of give you the big picture. You know our state general fund this year is 2.35 billion. That would take us to 2.6 or 2.7 billion dollars. If that happens I won't need furloughs. If that happens I can send a signal out to kind of turn around and not reduce our enrollment as much as we're planning.

The other thing is in the big picture I wrote an article for the San Francisco chronicle last November and I talked about California was heading in the wrong direction, and that California was building and operating world class prisons and second class universities, and that we were expending funds on California's failures and we were not investing funds in California's future. Now it cost 49,000 dollars a year to keep a ordinary regular prisoner in prison all year in California. Well we were we're only getting 7000 dollars a year to support a student to get a bachelorette degree. That's nuts! That doesn't make any sense at all. So that dichotomy is outrageous and we had said that over and over again.

Now the good news is the first week in January in the Governor's State of the State speech the Governor came out and proposed a new state policy. Now it wasn't so much what he proposed but it's what I think he was saying and he was saying higher education needs to be California's future. Higher education needs to be California's new priority but what he said was is that during the time of the master plan and the best of times in California, higher education, UC and CSU, received at least 10% of the state budget, and prisons received 7% of the state budget. So he has proposed a constitutional initiative ,either by 2/3 vote of the legislature, and I don't think in California you get a 2/3 vote for a mother's day resolution, but a 2/3 vote of the legislature or going to the people and getting the signatures to put it on the ballot. The governor's office is spending money polling. We saw a poll last week by the Public Policy Institute that shows that people are tired of spending all their money in the prison system. Now, what is important is the message that that sends to the people, having the top policy maker in the state saying we got the wrong set of priorities; we need to renew these priorities and start investing in California's future.

Now, I used to be in the political business a long time ago and I can tell you when I was in the governor's office if we had all the sheriff's departments, all cops, all the prison guards opposing us, pretty dam tough to pass, but on the other hand it's one really good message that's getting out and getting throughout California.

Now, even though there are bad times I have said to the presidents, the board has said to me we have to focus on this new, different student population and what we have to do is we have to help this population figure out how to prepare themselves to go to college, how to get in college and then I want to talk a little bit about how to get out of college, but for the past 5 years I have really focused really hard on a different way a university goes about sending messages and reaching out to students in the K-12. We have a very good partnership with K-12. We started out when I first came I set some priorities about K-12 teachers. We increased the number of teachers that we produce from about 17 from about 12,000 to 17,000 teachers a year. We said that that was gonna be the entire universities responsibility, not just the colleges of education, and we have pushed very, very hard with that partnership.

Now the important thing that I learned about these students and their families was this: We had to leave the university. We had to get out into the community that they lived in, and we had to speak their language and languages, and we had to provide them better information, so we launched off and the first thing that I wanted to focus on were the African American churches.

Now this February, last Sunday was the last Sunday, we went to 100 African American churches in California. We reached 100,000 African American families in the month of February. Why? If you look back over the last couple of years, year over year we have seen a 25% increase in African American admission applications. We have about 16% African American students and the state population is 14%, so we're doing a lot better, but you gotta sustain that and keep that going.

Second are Latinos. We had to figure out how to reach out there and go to their community. Well there we have a program called PIQE Parent Initiative for Quality Education mostly focused on Latino women who had taken care of their children, and we provide 9 weeks of a program to teach them how to get their students to study, their kids, how to go to school with their homework and not let either their kids or the school flim flam them about what courses to take and as we have said algebra is the keys to the kingdom, so make sure your kids get algebra.

And we've done the same thing in the Asian community especially for the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Hmong, the Pacific Islanders and they meet in community centers, and we go to those community centers.

Now we take people with us that speak their language. I also produced a poster and I'm proud about this because Univision last Tuesday a week ago asked our permission to make this a part of the Univision effort for the next two years with the Gates Foundation about putting this throughout America in every Univision television station. Now we have this poster in 8 different languages so if you're from Little Saigon it's in Vietnamese and when we go to the meeting they can look about how to get on our website, how to get financial aid, when to sign up, and it starts in the 6th grade, it's very prescriptive, and it says in every grade what classes you need to take, what exams, what grades and we're finding we've distributed 4 million of those posters since I started and we can't keep enough of them there.

Now in addition to that as a part of our partnership with the public schools, I worried that teachers and kids didn't get what it took to go to college and what rigor means in algebra, in English, in writing, so I convinced the State Board of Education that the California State University would be willing to pay to give a test to every 11th grader in California in the spring and we would give a test and it would be our admission placement exam as a part of the California test and we have done that now for 5 years and what we have found is good, good improvements in mathematics.

Today about 50% of the high school juniors pass the math test. Only 20% pass the English test. Now the reason for that is because of the large number of English language learners. Almost 60% of the K-12 students in California pipeline are Latinos or other English language learners where English is not spoken as the first language at home so that is a real real struggle for us. But we're gonna continue that and what we've asked the public schools in Long Beach, in San Jose have adopted mandatory this year we tested 875,000 students, I paid for it, it's about 7 million bucks, and we send a letter to the student, to the teacher, and the principal, and we say whether or not they're on track and if they're not we say we want you to retake algebra or English in the 12th grade. We know that the 12th grade is probably the biggest waste land in America. If I had my way I'd do away with the 12th grade but that's not gonna happen so let's use it much better.

Now let me give you one last big policy thought. Public institutions, especially the kinds of institutions that I have responsibility for are stretched to the limit financially, especially as we try to educate this different student. 126,000 of our students are Pell students. Our institutions educate about 40% of their class are Pell eligible students.

Now in the United States there has been something called Title 1 which has been on elementary and Secondary Education Act that helps students in poverty but it was institutional aid. In 1972 in the Higher Education Act they anticipated doing the same thing for higher education. If it's been a good success and we've given aid to elementary, junior and senior high schools for Title 1 kids why do we stop in the 12th grade? These kids come onto us. They need remediation. They need counseling. They need tutoring. They need academic advising. They need extra services and the institutions are stretched to provide that so I've been trying to get some attention Arnie Duncan, he likes the idea but it's too expensive.

Well you know I'm not sure about being too expensive when you look at the Obama goal of 2025. They're not gonna get there without students of color from the underserved communities. They can't reach their goal, so we're doing everything we can. George Miller, we're pitching this up on the hill, gotten Brit Kirwin at Maryland and folks around the country to try to help me, but I think that this focus on the underserved will really make a big, big difference.

Now let me close and take your questions. I think the policy makers that we started off talking about that we need to reengage, get them to reinvest their policy efforts in us, need and I know they understand this that for this country to be successful we have to build a world class workforce and the only way we're gonna build that world class work force is with this new demographic group coming through the pipeline and if they need to help us figure out how we can successfully educate these students one of the big things we worked hard on getting them in.

I have worked with the Nash people. We made a big announcement at our board meeting in January about getting students out. I committed 2 things: to increase by 8 percentage points our graduation rates. 47%-55% but that's not the heavy lifting. I also committed to cut in half the graduation gap between students of color and the majority students. That's the heavy lifting and see one of the presidents here, our institutions are going to have to increase their graduation rates to meet that anywhere from 7-14 points. But we're gonna do it and there's a lot of things that we're doing, putting in place that don't cost a lot of money but that we can do to help these students graduate. I'm proud of our institutions and presidents; all 23 of our campuses are on Direct Landing.

My good friend George Miller let me escape for one time and I committed to him last year that we would all do that. I know that there is this you know cat fight up on the hill between Sally May and the banks and the senate side but I'm optimistic. Now Direct Landing: We didn't hire one more employee. We put Direct Landing in place at 23 campuses. We're giving students better service, faster service and doing it so that the Obama people could put that money into Pell. What did that mean to the California State University? We increased our Pell awards by 84 million dollars last year just at the time that I increased tuition 32%. About 200,000 of our 450,000 students get some kind of grant, scholarship or aid that they don't have to pay anything, and so we could on Pell probably more than any other group in the country. And on our Title 1 deal I've said you know cut the line wherever you want. 20% Pell students you get Title 1 grant. 30% you get title you somebody will work that out, but what's important is that people look at that.

I want to give you one number to write down. We have 7 individual California State University institutions, 7 that have more Pell students individually than all 8 of the Ivy League schools put together so I'm tired of hearing about all the do-gooders ok. I know who is trying to educate this new population for America and doing a good job. So let me you know end by saying I need your help to ask our federal and state policy makers to do everything they can to support higher education and I thank you for putting up with me for the last several minutes and I'll be glad to answer your questions.