Access to Excellence Accountability Plan 2008 Executive Summary
Access to Excellence focuses on the intersection of the California State University (CSU) with the economic, political, and social environment of the State of California. As a new strategic plan that builds upon and succeeds Cornerstones, Access to Excellence anticipates what the people of the state will need from the CSU in the next decade, and generally indicates how best to position the institution to meet those needs. It is a public statement of the principles and core values of the institution, framing broad strategic goals as the basis for setting the CSU’s priorities and measuring its success over the next several years. At the same time, Access to Excellence identifies priorities for attention from policy-makers and the broad public, if California’s educational needs are to be met.
Looking Ahead: The Strategic Context for Leadership in The California State University
The major social, economic, and political forces that shape this plan in some respects continue the themes of the past decade. At the state level, the years immediately ahead will be a time characterized by population growth and demographic change, rapidly changing technologies, and workforce transition. These years will also be a time of continuing fiscal challenges to publicly funded institutions, as demands on state funds will continue to squeeze discretionary spending for higher education. Additionally, they will be years marked by sweeping change for all of higher education, as technology will continue to expand capacity to meet new populations, and to change traditional ways of doing the work of teaching, research, and service.
The challenges ahead are both daunting and exciting. Meeting them will require the leaders in the CSU and the state to focus on how best to use the institution’s assets to meet public priorities. The CSU possesses many strategic advantages from which to build, including its regional focus and strong commitment to outcomes related to broad social and economic goals.
- The mission of each of the institutions that comprise the CSU is to provide affordable access to education that is high-quality, learning-centered, and outcomes-based.
- The CSU has been and remains the state’s most cost-effective instrument in terms of producing baccalaureate degrees per dollar of public investment.
- The CSU is well positioned to take advantage of technology as a result of the Integrated Technology Strategy that has put the policy, hardware, and software in place to meet future needs.
- Although much more remains to be done, the CSU has led productive state and national efforts to improve assessment of student learning.
- In ways that are tailored to regional needs, the 23 universities that comprise the CSU each deploy distinct strengths and serve distinct communities, while meeting the broad missions assigned by the state.
- The CSU plays an important role in producing civic, political, and social—as well as
- 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.
- The CSU fosters active learning that is engaged with communities, in an explicit context of global awareness, designed to equip students to be successful in society and in the workforce.
- The CSU has clearly stepped up to the imperative to tackle achievement gaps to build educational attainment.
Priorities for Public Policy Attention
The California State University cannot accomplish all that must be done by acting on its own. To meet the future needs of the State of California, the CSU will need to be strategically linked with state policy leaders; P-12, community college, and University of California leaders; the business community; and the broad philanthropic community. Issues that require such partnerships and state-level attention include:
Public policy to grow expectations for degree attainment. Meeting California’s needs for increased degree attainment will require the CSU to join with other educational sectors and to re-engage with state policy-makers and community leaders for the purposes of educating them about the consequences of under-performance in higher education, securing the resources necessary to increase educational attainment levels, and evoking a policy commitment to achieving the agreed-upon results.
California needs to refresh its state policy goals for postsecondary education. This means setting goals for attainment that are appropriate to the social and workforce needs of this century and reflective of the missions of each institution. A new approach to master planning will be necessary—one focused on state needs that can only be met by postsecondary education, and accompanied by a realistic strategic financing plan to accomplish the goals of increasing access, success, and quality. California is a state that has historically stepped up to the challenge of finding creative solutions to public problems. In the last century, this state was an international model for postsecondary education. It can be again.
Strengthened cross-sector (P-16) strategies and structures. Closing existing achievement gaps requires attention first to closing expectations and performance gaps among administrators and teachers, from elementary school through the university. The CSU needs to continue to focus on preparation of adequate numbers of well-trained teachers.
Greater attention must be paid to strengthening cross-sector strategies to increase student preparation and achievement—strategies that will be sustained and focused, and for which institutions will be accountable. It will also require commitment to building the infrastructure to support inter-sector work.
Commitments from the CSU
Strong cross-sector linkages and public policy attention must be accompanied by commitments on the part of the CSU that will help position California for 21st-century success. Accordingly, the CSU commits to achieving gains in eight specific areas.
- Reduce existing achievement gaps. The CSU leadership commits to halving existing achievement gaps within the next 10 years. Work will need to occur at each of the points in the educational pipeline where leakages are occurring: in college-going rates among recent high school graduates; in first-year retention rates; in transfer readiness and success; in baccalaureate degree completion; and in graduate and professional school readiness and completion.
- Plan for faculty turnover and invest in faculty experience. The CSU will develop a comprehensive plan for reinvestment in its faculty to meet its goals of reducing compensation gaps and increasing the number of tenure-track faculty. In addition, the CSU commits to a comprehensive faculty planning effort, to include turnover planning, attention to recruitment and retention practices, and consideration of faculty development and evaluation strategies to support excellence in both pedagogy and scholarship.
- Plan for staff and administrative succession and professional growth. Attention to recruitment, professional development, and compensation for staff and administrators is also a priority. Complementary strategies to those that are employed for faculty need to be put in place. These strategies should include a commitment to closing salary gaps where they exist, providing a safe and healthy environment, and offering appropriate levels of training and development.
- Improve public accountability for learning results. The CSU commits to strengthen its accountability to the public for learning results, through implementation of programs like the Voluntary System of Accountability. It will be important to use findings from the accountability measures to inform curriculum and program improvements at the campus level. In acquiring stronger evidence about learning results, the CSU will also use its accountability efforts to measure effectiveness in meeting workforce and civic results.
- Expand student outreach. The CSU will continue its leadership in reaching out to new populations of students, beginning with expansion of “early outreach” efforts to middle schools. The great success of the Early Assessment Program (EAP) needs to be deepened and extended, and strengthened through systemic partnerships with school districts throughout the state.
- Enhance student opportunities for "active learning." Student involvement in research and community activities increases retention, enhances learning, contributes to building skills and habits of collaboration and problem-solving, and increases chances for success after graduation. Accordingly, the CSU will develop specific plans and programs to enhance opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to link classroom learning to research and community participation, including service, as part of their educational experience.
- Enhance opportunities for global awareness. Across the coming decade, strong and effective programs to build global awareness need to be replicated throughout the system. Accordingly, the CSU will support faculty work that internationalizes curricula and the experiences of students and faculty alike.
- Act on the CSU's responsibility to meet postbaccalaureate needs, including those of working professionals. The CSU needs to continue to expand its graduate and professional program offerings in order to meet the workforce needs of the state. Special needs exist in science and technology, teaching, and nursing. In addition, the CSU will need to develop a systematic plan to expand capacity through university extension programs.
The future quality of civic and economic life in California more than ever rests on the performance of the 23 universities that comprise the California State University. It is not an exaggeration to say that the success of the CSU in meeting the goals of this plan are absolutely central to the future quality of life in California: as goes the CSU, so goes California. The CSU is remarkably well positioned to lead California in this great task.