Chancellor's Recent Speeches

Remarks by Dr. Charles B. Reed
Chancellor, California State University
CSU Super Sunday
Los Angeles, CA
February 26, 2006

Thank you, Bishop Blake and Herb (Carter). And thank you to all of you for joining us for this morning's special presentation.

We're here this morning to talk about the importance of helping our students make it to college and earn their degree.

In the past, college might have been optional. But these days, a college degree is becoming the minimum requirement for getting a good job and succeeding in the workforce.

We're living in a knowledge-driven economy, where employers want workers who understand technology, who know how to think and communicate globally.

More jobs than ever require a college degree. And there is a major pay differential. A degree could mean nearly twice as much during your lifetime - $2 million versus $1 million for a college graduate, according to the Census Bureau.

Plus, that college graduate then goes on to bring more benefits, economic and otherwise, to his or her community. Studies show that they have better health, have better child-rearing skills, commit fewer crimes, and give back to their communities in greater numbers.

I truly believe that education is the cornerstone of a healthy society.

That's why I want to make sure that we are getting all of our future students on track as soon as possible.

CSU Role

I'm proud of the role that the California State University plays in educating African-American students.

We are the most diverse university system in the country, with more than 54 percent students of color. On our 23 campuses, we enroll nearly 20,000 African-American students. We are a friendly place for African-American students.

But I know we need to do even more.

We want to make certain that more African-American students are eligible for the CSU.

And right now we enroll almost two African-American women for every African-American man. We need to do more to reach out to and engage our young men.

We also have a commitment to student success, which means we're interested in more than just opening the doors. We will have succeeded not simply when we admit more African-American students, but when we can help them all the way through to the degree. Graduation is what it's all about.

Those graduates are our true measure of success.

Take the example of Terrance Hamilton, a young African-American man who was raised by a single mother on the west side of San Bernardino.

He was inspired by another Cal State San Bernardino alumnus - his high school counselor - who didn't just encourage him to go to college, he told him to go to college.

Terrance became the first African-American student to graduate from Cal State San Bernardino with a degree in physics. He went on to get a master's degree, and while he was pursuing his Ph.D. he was hired away by Xerox. He now works as a real-time software systems engineer.

Then there's Javon Johnson, a young African-American man who has earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Cal State L.A. He discovered at a young age that he had a gift for speech and debate, so his mother urged him to follow his dream. He now has approximately 500 speech and debate awards under his belt. He is also a five-time national intercollegiate speech and debate champion. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Northwestern University.

We also have many students who are still on the road to a degree. For instance, I know of one young man at Cal State L.A. who has already been through a lifetime of challenges. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area by a single mother. He moved around a lot and attended many different schools during his K - 12 school years. Then when he got to high school, his mother died. An aunt took him and his two younger sisters into her home but she too passed away from an illness during his senior year of high school.

He had just turned 18 and, without any adults to depend upon, realized that he had to take care of himself and, eventually, his younger sisters. When his high school counselor encouraged him to consider attending a university, he became interested in applying to college. He was accepted at Cal State L.A., and he got the financial aid he needed to pay for his school expenses and live in the dorms on campus. He is working hard to keep up his studies while holding a part time job and keeping an eye on his sisters.

Fortunately, he has had a great deal of support from the Educational Participation In Communities (EPIC) Program at Cal State L.A. He knows that earning his degree will help him be successful in his future career and eventually enable him to care for his sisters.

There are plenty of students like him who need our support.

Our goal is to find ways to reach the students like these young men whom we aren't reaching - and help them make it all the way through the process. That's why we are doing today's event and others like it all around the state.

Steps to College

We have lots of information available to parents and students. But our challenge is getting it to the right people. So - Parents and students - here's what you can do:

One - Read our "How to Get to College" poster. This poster spells out all of the steps that a student needs to prepare for college, beginning in middle school. We will have this poster available afterwards for anyone who is interested.

Two - I urge all students to take the full college preparatory curriculum, known as the A-G requirements. Even if you are not planning on going to college, this curriculum will give you a solid grounding in the basics and prepare you for the workforce.

Three - Get on a computer and log in to the Cal State web site: That web site will point you to CSU Mentor, which will help you get all the information you need to plan for and apply to college. We will have CSU Mentor demonstrations going on here today.

Four - Learn all you can about financial aid. We are extremely lucky to be in California because our university fees are low and our financial aid programs are very generous. But you need to know where to apply and when. You can learn more on our web site and on this poster.

Five - Take the Early Assessment Test in the 11th grade. This is a voluntary test that is an extension of the California Standards Test that students already have to take. It'll take 30 minutes extra. But those 30 minutes can save you an entire year. It will let you know if you need to do more work in your senior year to get up to speed on English or math.

A Role for Everyone

Last, if you don't have a child who is in school, consider this: When we ask successful people what made a difference in their lives, the common thread was that they all had some kind of mentor, whether it be a coach, or a counselor, or a pastor, or a family friend.

I ask each of you to ask yourselves if you can be that person in a student's life.

If we are going to bring higher education to the next generation of students, we all need to be involved.

One more thing - Here is why I love my job. I got a letter recently from a young man who was just about to graduate from one of our campuses. I want to read to you from this letter:

"Dear Mr. Reed:

"It's hard to measure the extent to which we may be able to change someone's life; today that was easy. Thanks to your help, today I should graduate as an industrial engineer.

You changed my life. Thanks to this, I have achieved my American dream.

I was hired by Intel Corp. I start work there in January 2006. Also, I had the best job offer in my class. Hopefully, I passed all my classes and it will all be OK.

Thank you, forever."

Again, that's why I love this job.

Thank you, Bishop Blake, and thank you to all of you for having me here - for what I hope will be the first of many "Super Sundays."

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