Strategic Advantages for the California State University
The challenges ahead are simultaneously daunting and exciting. Meeting them will require leaders in the CSU and in the state to focus on how best to use the institutionís assets to meet the public priorities so critical to Californiaís future. There is much strength from which to build within the CSU.
Learning-Centered, Outcomes Oriented
The mission of each of the institutions that comprise the California State University is to provide affordable access to education that is high quality, learning-centered, and outcomes-based. Californiaís need to increase degree attainment at the bachelorís, masterís, and professional levels is entirely consistent with the core strength of the CSU.
Knowledge Development, Sustainability, and Contributions to Economy
The CSU has long been committed to the development of new knowledge to benefit teaching and learning, to serve communities, and to contribute to regional and statewide economies. What are too often presented as either-or propositions in higher education are in fact integrative, defining, and essential dimensions of quality in the CSU: excellence in teaching and in scholarship; faculty and student research; stimulating economic development and meeting community needs. The CSUís increasing applied research activities represent important contributions to regional and state economic development. The sustainability initiative is a good example of comprehensive engagement whereby a major public need is being systematically integrated into teaching, service, research, and facilities management. Newly emerging CSU graduate programs such as the Professional Science Masterís degrees are well aligned with and responsive to state workforce needs, and represent a likely area of CSU degree program development and growth in the future. The preparation of adequate numbers of well-trained teachers, a key part of the CSUís mission, remains centrally important to the future of the state.
Civic and Community Engagement
The CSU plays an important role in producing civic, political, and social, as well as economic, outcomes. The societal benefits derived from higher education have never been more needed: California and the nation require healthy, engaged individuals who are involved in their communities and committed to sustainability—and who model the values of courtesy and respect for diversity, diverse views, and open dialogue.
The universities of the CSU are deeply engaged with their communities, supported by a strong and growing network of alumni who are critical in making the connections between community needs and university capacity to meet them. The geographic distribution of the 23 universities additionally provides a strategic asset for the institution and for the state, as institutional resources can contribute to the transformation of many regions whose continued success depends upon economic and social innovation.
Access, Quality, Cost-Effectiveness, Productivity
The CSU has been and remains the stateís most cost-effective investment in terms of producing baccalaureate degrees per dollar of public investment. Under Cornerstones, the CSU has shown that it is possible to combine commitments to access, quality, cost effectiveness, and productivity. CSU enrollments have increased, most rapidly among minority populations; low-income access has been protected through a largely effective system of need-based grant aid; and graduation rates have increased. Learning productivity—improving initial student success while also reducing unnecessary coursework and excess units to the degree—has also improved slightly: notably, the proportion of regularly admitted first-time freshmen in the CSU who need remedial courses in English and/or mathematics has declined, from 63 percent to 55 percent since 1996—at the same time that freshmen enrollments have increased by 38 percent.11 Efforts to increase productivity through year-round operation, greater use of distance-enhanced learning, and cost avoidance through administrative efficiencies have further reduced costs within the CSU. The cost-effectiveness of the California State University, relative to other options for investing scarce public resources, is a key strategic asset for the institution—and for the stateóin the years ahead.
Cross-Sector Commitment to Meeting Community Needs
The California State University has clearly stepped up to the imperative to tackle achievement gaps to build educational attainment. System as well as campus leaders have reached out across the state to build better awareness of the importance of going to college, and the need for families and students to work together to increase success. The Early Assessment Program (EAP) is an important example of successful cross-sector collaboration, accomplished through the joint efforts of the CSU, the California State Department of Education, and the California State Board of Education. Work has also begun in creating a seamless system of transfer for community college students, with significant efforts by the CSU to develop major-specific Lower Division Transfer Patterns (LDTP). Much remains to be accomplished, however, and such future efforts will require continued commitment from CSU faculty and 13 staff, greater collaboration with the community colleges, and support from policy-makers.
Although much more remains to be done, the CSU has been leading state and national efforts to improve assessment of student learning: to embrace and strengthen regional and specialized accreditation; to pilot assessment instruments such as the Collegiate Learning Assessment and the National Survey of Student Engagement; and to provide leadership for the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) that is being promoted nationally by the two major national associations representing public colleges and universities, the National Association of State and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). Such efforts provide a solid basis for extending assessment work even further in the CSU and strengthening system accountability to the public for student learning results.
System-Level Governance Model
California is too big and diverse to have a one-size-fits-all approach to university education. The 23 universities that comprise the CSU each have distinct strengths, serve distinct communities, and meet the broad missions of the institution in ways tailored to community needs. The California State University has undergone important transitions in its internal governance model, evolving from the top-down, regulated system contemplated by the Master Plan to a more federated system of highly differentiated institutions. This model presents a balance between campus-level entrepreneurship and autonomy and system-level commitment to serving state-level needs. Administrative efficiencies are obtained when possible through systemwide initiatives, such as the Integrated Technology Strategy (ITS) and Common Management System (CMS). And accountability is increasingly accomplished through a goals-and-results model that is focused on performance rather than processes.
Technology has brought about truly transformative change in higher education in the last decade, and few doubt that the changes will be even more profound in the future. The CSU is well positioned to take advantage of technology as a result of the Integrated Technology Strategy12 that has put the policy, hardware, and software in place to meet needs of the future. The goal of ITS has been to ensure that ďall CSU students, faculty, and staff can communicate with anyone, from anyplace, at any time, through access to the full range of national and international information resources.Ē The realization of this goal is more nearly complete than might have been imagined 10 years ago—benefiting not just CSU students, faculty, and staff, but any member of the public wanting access to the CSU. In addition to providing the capacity for much greater innovation in teaching and research, technology allows the institution to expand capacity through distance-mediated as well as enriched campus-based instruction.
11 From California State Proficiency reports, 1999-2000, and 2005-2006; http://www.asd.calstate.edu/performance/proficiency.shtml