Chancellor Timothy P. White's remarks at California Community College League, January 28, 2013 | Chancellor's Speech | CSU

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Remarks by Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
Super Sunday
West Angeles Cathedral
Los Angeles, CA
February 24, 2013

Bishop Blake, elders, members of the congregation, thank you for your warm welcome. It is an honor and a joy to be here.

I’m tempted to break away from my prepared comments and just say, “Almighty God! Hallelujah! Go to school! Stay in school! Go to the CSU! Get a job! Live happily ever after! Amen!”

I think that pretty much sums it up.

But perhaps I should give you a little more to go on.

First let me say that I’m grateful, and humbled, by the opportunity to meet so many community members, parents, grandparents, and young people whom I hope themselves - or someone they know - will someday join us on one of our 23 campuses.

I’m going to start by telling you my own story – not because it’s me, but because it ties to the bigger picture of what I wish to share about the California State University. I am the reflection of so much of what the CSU represents.

By rights, I probably shouldn’t be here as Chancellor of the largest 4-year university in the country:

  • I did not come from a family of means.
  • In high school I was told I’d have a chance of being OK …but wouldn’t amount to much.

Those searing words made me look inside myself, and become even more determined to succeed.

I was the first in my family to venture beyond high school, and I found my bearings because of my experiences at a community college, two Cal State campuses, and then graduate work at Cal – and also because of the support from my family and my community.

Fueled by the energy provided by a public college education in all 3 legs of California’s Master Plan for Higher Ed, I set out on a journey along the yellow-brick road…

Yes, I found potholes along the way, and landed in the ditch more times than I like to recall, But I am now in a position to give back to a state where I’ve had a chance to live my version of the American Dream.

If I can be pulled up, and then launched, by the promise provided by CSU…then anyone with aptitude and a work ethic can as well.

After all, it’s not where you start. It’s where you finish.

Super Sunday is a time when leaders across the CSU visit African American churches throughout the state to promote the value of a college education… a program I have committed to by speaking 5 times this month and next.

Thank you, Bishop Blake, for giving birth, and then life, to Super Sunday in 2005.

But Super Sunday isn’t about just one Sunday. It’s about a pathway, a journey, a “rocket ship” if you will, to be super yourself.

We have several year-round efforts, including:

  • Summer algebra institutes;
  • A Super Saturday College Fair;
  • Train the Trainer workshops for church educational liaisons;
  • A Parent Training Program component to establish Parent Involvement Centers in churches…

We do so, because we know it takes a village to love, support and guide our children every day to a better future.

In today’s high-tech global economy, higher education has become the necessary ticket to good jobs, lower unemployment rates, and a high probability of a middle-class lifestyle.

But it goes well beyond self. Communities that have college grads in them are:

  • Stronger, because engaged and knowledgeable citizens will vote, sit on boards, and work for the good of others and the schools;
  • And Vibrant, because communities with higher paying jobs and decreased unemployment provide tax support for programs we value – like parks and schools.

Indeed, young people recognize the importance of college---they are just looking for guidance on how to get there.

Let me illustrate the poignancy (POY-NEAN-SEE) of their clairvoyance with one brief story.

There were several young people at a housing complex in a poor community not far from here who were being mentored by CSU students.

The students were helping the kids take pictures of things they would like to see changed in their community.

One of the children took a picture of his mentor wearing a CSU T-shirt, and then captioned the picture, “My Ticket Out.”

Isn’t that powerful?

Even at a young age those kids know that a college degree is their ticket up in life, and out of despair.

Our Super Sunday effort across the state has resulted in an increase in the number of African American students applying for freshman admissions at CSU campuses, which is very gratifying and encouraging.

We also know that the fear or reality of cost can create a barrier for students from low income households to even apply to college.

But wait a minute… listen carefully to these facts:

  • In general, undergraduate students who qualify for financial aid and whose families make less than $70,000 per year receive financial aid resources from the state and campuses, coupled with federal grants, which practically allow them to attend college tuition-free.
  • In fact over 50% of our undergraduate students fall into this category
  • And when it comes to paying federal taxes, there is also a $2,500 tax credit for college costs….which is huge.

If you, a family member, a friend or neighbor are weighing the possibility of going to college this Fall and want to be considered for financial aid – and really now, who wouldn’t - you MUST submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (called the FAFSA).

Pay attention now. The drop-dead deadline is March 2nd. You have to get this form in to qualify for financial aid – and there are some at the CSU table that you’ll find on your way out of church today.

No Form. No financial aid. It is a must-do.

I hope that after the service you will stop by the CSU table and pick up the “How to Get to College Poster” and other materials, including the FAFSA.

Talk with our application experts and to our CSU alums that are there.

In fact, we have a number of alumni and employees here today in support of you. Will all of these good folks please stand?

Let’s give them a hand. Thank you.

Let me finish up my comments by stating clearly:

There is a place for everyone at the CSU who has the aptitude and is willing to do the work. We want to be partners with you in the success of your children and grandchildren, and even yourself, if that is your goal.

Whether you want to go to a small, rural campus or a large urban campus…or earn your degree essentially on-line…whether you want to stay at home or go far away…we have something amazing in store for you.

And it is never too early or too late. Last year the oldest graduating senior was 88 years young, and the youngest was only 16 years old – and she earned both her bachelors and masters at the same time!

Consider the California State University as the promise to live your American Dream, the ticket to a better tomorrow.

Thank you, Bishop Blake, for allowing me the privilege of engaging with your congregation this morning.

May God bless each of you!