Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Berkeley Higher Ed - 12/10/98

Good afternoon. Thank you for that warm welcome -- it is an honor for me to speak in front of this group today.

A special thanks also for holding this seminar series.

Strategic thinking about the future of higher education will be critical to the future of our citizens and our economy.

I want you to know that I deeply appreciate the time that you have spent exploring these issues.

I would like to focus my remarks today in three areas:

  • The importance of higher education to our citizens and our economy.

  • The challenges we face in maintaining access and quality in higher education.

  • The strategies we can adopt to meet those challenges.

First, before we get to these ideas, I want to put a real face on this issue.

Two months ago we had a ceremony at our new Channel Islands campus site to celebrate the transfer of land from the state to the CSU.

Throughout the proceedings, a man we had never seen before stood quietly behind where the audience was seated.

He stood out because he was wearing an old shirt and jeans, not a suit and tie like everyone else.

He came up to me afterwards and he explained that he worked at a farm nearby. He had slipped away from work that morning just to watch the ceremony.

He had never had the chance to attend college but he was determined that his children would attend this new campus in the future.

For him, this ceremony was more than just another ribbon-cutting. He wanted to be there so that he could - literally - watch a door being opened for his children, his family, and his community.

I remember this incident because it reminds me just how important our work is to so many families in California.

The mission of the California State University is to provide an accessible, affordable, high-quality education for our students. In fulfilling this mission, we provide a priceless opportunity to our citizens - the opportunity to obtain a higher education.

I believe that the opportunity to attend college will become increasingly important for the citizens of our state - and for California's future.

It will be important for these reasons:

Reason number one -- the business capital of the 21st century is not going to be bricks and mortar, but intellectual capital.

The fact is, an educated workforce will be a company's most valued commodity. We need to recognize that higher education is going to be the most important economic infrastructure we can build.

Our economy - which is rapidly calling for more educated workers than ever before - will demand no less.

Reason number two - the changing nature of information in our society. We are bombarded with different kinds of information from all sources, from all sides, all day long.

What higher education can give to students is a critical ability to process that information, to ask questions, to remain critical and yet open to new ideas.

Dr. Kenneth L. Lay, the chairman and CEO of the Enron Corporation, recently told a group of educators,

"All we ask of colleges is that they give us students ready to learn what we have to teach. All we ask is they train them to write, think, and analyze at a very sophisticated level. All we ask, in our specific case, is that colleges produce graduates who understand the principles of finance and are eager to apply them."

As Dr. Lay said, companies want employees who know how to reason, how to question, how to digest new information, and how to think critically.

They will look for workers who can do the kind of advanced thinking that higher education can provide.

Reason number three: People who receive a baccalaureate degree earn far more each year and over a lifetime than those with only a high school education.

In addition, college graduates tend to have better health care, better child-care practices, and more community involvement.

So both the individual and the greater society benefit from higher education - thus improving our state's quality of life.

Yet we have an opportunity gap. For instance, a student from a high-income background is far more likely to make it to college than a student from a low-income background.

We also have a preparation gap. There are wide disparities between different high schools in terms of preparation. In addition, children of college-educated parents are far more likely to take college preparatory classes and the SAT.

As the California population grows and diversifies, we need to close these gaps and ensure that all of our citizens have the opportunity to get a college degree.

At the CSU, we are determined to recognize the growing importance of higher education and fulfill our mission - once again, to provide an accessible, affordable, high-quality education to California's students.

But in the coming years we face many challenges ahead. For instance:

  • The projected enrollment boom, known as the "baby boom echo" or Tidal Wave II.

  • The challenge of maintaining access for all segments of the population.

  • The need to improve K-12 schools.

  • The corresponding need to train more and better teachers.

  • The vast need for helping under-prepared K-12 students become ready for college-level work.

  • Our aging facilities - more than half are over 30 years old.

  • The need to keep up with changing technology, and to tap its potential for improving the quality of education.

  • Greater competition for state funding from other government services.

  • A greater demand for accountability from policymakers and the public.

Perhaps the most challenging question ahead of us is a key question raised in John Douglass' article: What does California want out of its higher education system in the new century, and what can it afford?

And the corollary question: Will the Master Plan in its current form be able to meet the needs of California's evolving economic, social, and political climate?

In order to answer these questions we will need to have an informed, statewide dialogue on how we envision the future of higher education in California.

As I formulate my own response to these issues, I first want to say that I believe California has a great Master Plan. The plan works because it differentiates between the missions of the two university systems.

I believe that California is big enough to afford two world-class higher education systems - one that focuses on research, and one that focuses on teaching. So I support the Master Plan.

Also, I believe that Californians are beginning to realize the importance of re-investing in our state's educational system. Some recent indicators include:

  • The vote of confidence our legislators gave us in our budget this summer.

  • The resounding support by voters - by 63 percent - of Proposition 1A.

  • Electing Gray Davis - who has pledged to make education his top priority - by a 20 percent margin.

  • Continued public faith in higher education.

These examples all point to a renewed interest in educational investment for the 21st century.

But we cannot simply rely on public support alone. We need to protect our investment by taking stock of what we are doing internally and finding ways to do them even better.

We cannot settle for "business as usual," and we cannot settle for being just "good enough."

Fortunately, we have a strong policy document, known as Cornerstones, to help sort through these issues. Although we are still developing a Cornerstones implementation plan, the document has given us a good starting point for improving our system.

First, it asks us to create a student-centered enterprise. And students demand greater access.

We have to be more flexible in terms of both our schedules, and our locations.

That means we have to look at:

  • Year-round education - making full use of our facilities.

  • Flexible scheduling - such as night, weekend, or short-term classes.

  • Off-campus centers - moving beyond the traditional reach of our campuses.

  • Distance education - using technology to make our classes more accessible.

Second, it demands more quality in our educational offerings, as determined by results. This means we need to look at:

  • Key outcomes and assessments - including writing and critical thinking.

  • Mediated instruction - methods for improving student-faculty interaction, such as using technology to allow a student to hear a given lecture more than once.

  • Working with the highly acclaimed British Open University - to learn how to incorporate technology into the curriculum without sacrificing quality.

Third, it demands that we continue working closely with our K-12 partners in education. We must improve our public schools by:

  • Producing more and better teachers for California's schools.

  • Improving teacher education - through changes such as offering earlier field experiences to prospective teachers.

  • Focusing on the basics - urging K-12 schools to teach reading and writing all through high school; algebra and geometry as early as 7th or 8th grade.

  • Offering early assessments - Giving our diagnostic tests early to help students determine where their skill levels are in terms of our standards.

Fourth, we must continue our efforts to work closely with our community college partners.

  • We need to create articulation agreements.

  • We need to ease the transfer process with common course numbering and common calendars.

  • We need a general education agreement.

Fifth, we need to work more closely with the greater community, especially the business community.

  • We need to listen to them to learn what they want from our graduates.

  • We need them to help us identify "best practices," and work on accountability and quality improvement.

Finally, we need to give strong support to our faculty.

  • We need to bring their salaries up to par with comparable institutions.

  • We need to offer more faculty development to help them make the transition to outcomes assessment and greater use of technology.

It is my hope that we can pursue these strategies - increasing access, increasing quality, working more closely with our education and community partners, and assisting our faculty - in order to meet the challenges ahead.

In closing, let me once again reiterate the vast importance of higher education to our society.

We are entering into an era where knowledge-based industries, demanding highly skilled employees, dominate the workforce.

Those without the educational background to survive in this economy will get further and further behind. So it is imperative that we preserve and expand this important opportunity for our citizens.

I am very proud to be here in California, and I believe that our state has an outstanding higher education system.

Yet in order to meet the challenges of the future, we must pursue new strategies that will create more accountability and productivity while maintaining quality and access.

Above all, we must be proactive in our efforts to build a high-quality educational system for the 21st century.

As President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, "Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose."

Once again, thank you for inviting me here today, and for focusing on these important issues.

I will be glad to take any questions you have.


Back to speeches