Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)
Washington D.C.
April 4, 2005

Thank you, Alex (Gonzalez).

We've heard some good news and bad news in the last few months about our incoming students.

Last fall, the California State University released a survey about the impact of its 23 campuses. It showed that more than half of all bachelor's degrees granted to Latinos, African-Americans, and Native Americans in California came from the CSU. In fact, 58 percent of all bachelor's degrees granted to Latinos in California were CSU degrees.

We also found that Latino students made up 19.1 percent of all high school graduates eligible for the CSU. However, they made up 27.8 percent of our incoming freshmen.

This means that California's Latino students are choosing the CSU for their education.

But last month our state got some bad news. It was the kind of news that those of us in education never want to hear.

The Urban Institute and Harvard University did a survey of California public school students. The survey found that:

  • 77 percent of California's white public school students finish high school with a diploma.

  • Only 60 percent of California's Hispanic public school students finish high school.

  • In the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has more than 735,000 students and is a majority-Hispanic district, only 39 percent of Hispanics graduate from high school.
This last number is appalling. When I saw those numbers I even had to double-check to make sure it was not a misprint.

One thing I have believed throughout all of my years in higher education is that colleges and universities cannot operate in isolation. The strength of our country's educational system relies on the strength of the K-20 pipeline. That means that we have to strengthen each piece along the way - and we have to make sure that the transitions are solid.

So when we look at the current situation, it is not a question of whether higher education must help the public schools, it is a question of how we can help them. And even if we are doing something to help these students, we are clearly not doing enough.

At the CSU, we have a situation where more than half of our incoming students need some form of remedial education. These are not failing students, by the way. These are students who maintained a "B" average and met all of our admissions requirements.

We've been working to address this issue on several fronts:


First, we publish a "Steps To College" poster for middle and high school students. This poster gives students a step-by-step guide to preparing for college, starting in the 6th grade. We have distributed more than half a million copies of this poster to middle schools and high schools all around the state. We have also been working with members of the community, asking them to help us circulate this poster so that it hangs on every bedroom wall of every middle and high school student.


Second, we have developed an 11th grade test called the Early Assessment Program or EAP. We worked with the California Department of Education and State Board of Education to create this test, which is embedded in the 11th grade California Standards Tests. It is designed to give students an "early signal" about their college readiness.

Once they take this test, students have the opportunity to do any additional preparation that they need to do for college while in the 12th grade. This test is voluntary, so we are working to motivate students to elect to take this test. In the long run, having this information will help them on the road to college and it will save them time and money.

Assisting Schools

Third, we have developed support for K-12 schools and students that goes hand in hand with the EAP test:
  • Workshops for teachers in teaching math and English and reading.

  • Support for students through the Diagnostic Writing Service, which gives students a diagnosis of writing samples.

  • Web sites to help students understand the math and English requirements.
Asking for Federal Support

We're also looking for support from the federal government. In fact, we are meeting with congressional leaders and others on the hill later this week on issues relating to the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

Among the items we will be calling for are early intervention and outreach programs such as GEAR-UP and TRIO, and increases to the Pell Grant program for financial aid.

Asking for Community Support

Also we are turning to our communities for support in reaching K-12 students directly.

Last month the CSU system held an event with African-American community leaders at West Angeles Church in Los Angeles to talk more about how we can reach students in their communities.

We told them that every action can help - tutoring, scholarships, donating time or resources, spending time with students and lending encouragement, and sharing your own successes.

We are currently planning more such events, including a forum for Latino leaders.

Bottom line - our colleges and universities need to take the initiative. We need to be creative. And we simply cannot afford to be passive when it comes to our future students.

I hope that all of our colleges and universities will find more ways to be creative and to reach students at this critical stage.

Thank you very much.

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