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California State University, Long Beach

2006-2007 Convocation Address: The Year in Review

The Year in Review

When reviewing these accomplishments it is easy to conclude that our University is very strong and moving forward. We have recently emerged from our second national and statewide recession within the last fifteen years, and despite these economic setbacks we have managed to generate a very positive momentum and energy. This kind of institutional momentum is envied by many others in California and other universities throughout the nation.

To evidence this all one has to do is look at some of our national ratings released last year that comparatively assess academic quality and affordability. In the March 2006 Edition of the Princeton Review CSULB ranked as the nation’s 3rd best Public University Value. This is the only national ranking that includes tuition, fees, and financial aid as formulaic considerations in the overall calculations. More recently, according to the 2007 Edition of US News and World Report, CSULB ranked as the West Region’s 3rd best public university. In addition to this academic quality comparison, our Cal State Long Beach ranked 4th in the nation among all public and private universities in having the lowest percentage of students graduating with student loan debt. This past summer the National Science Foundation (NSF) ranked CSULB as the nation’s number one “Masters” degree granting university in producing graduates that continued on to receive PhD’s in science and science-related academic fields during the last decade. And once again, Diverse Issues in Higher Education ranked our University in the nation’s top ten in graduating minority and underrepresented students placing us 6th this past year. This is a wonderful tribute to the great diversity of our campus and a strong indication of our commitment to educating underserved populations.

These accomplishments also are a testimony to the educational excellence that our students receive and our ongoing commitment to ensuring that our students are not saddled with substantial debt that will limit their future economic and career opportunities. Not all universities prioritize these considerations or carefully weigh other possible fiscal options before imposing higher tuition and fees on students and families. Unfortunately, however, we are not immune from the political spillover effects of those decisions at both the state and federal policy levels.

Although I am fully aware of the pitfalls of many of these published quality assessments, I am also aware that these performance rankings, with all their faults, provide useful comparative insights for parents, policy-makers, alumni, and particularly high achieving students. Quite frankly, these external accolades help demonstrate in many small measures the great value of a CSULB education.

The 2005-2006 Academic Year also witnessed some very important milestones for our University. Next fall we will begin our first doctoral degree program in the history of our University and the CSU. Thanks to the efforts of Chancellor Reed and the CSU Trustees we are now able to offer educational opportunities from pre-school through doctoral degrees right here in Long Beach. This was a victory for the CSU and for our students. It also was a victory for those who understand that public policy should focus more on the challenge of meeting rapidly increasing educational demand instead of constantly protecting an outdated status quo where the monopolistic cry of “duplication” crowds out equal opportunities.

Another important milestone reached this past year indicates the racial and ethnic evolution of our campus and is a tribute to the wonderful diversity of our University. After over a decade of work we finally received our federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HIS). This designation not only highlights the increasing diversity of our campus but also makes available federal grant opportunities for faculty, staff, and students.

Also, our intercollegiate athletics program won its first ever Big West Conference Commissioner’s Cup which is given the best overall athletic program in the Conference. In addition to this milestone our overall student athlete graduation rate increased from 64% to 69%.

I am also pleased to announce that our institutional and faculty efforts to increase external and federal research support have benefited many throughout our campus community. This past year we generated over $44 million in external support thanks to your work and the relevance of your research interests. This represents an increase of 43 percent from the previous academic year. Also, our external and federal research applicants grew by over 10 percent involving 344 faculty and staff members.

Additionally, under the leadership of Chancellor Reed, all CSU institutions have received unprecedented national attention from The USA Today, The New York Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education for our efforts to improve the educational rigor in public high schools with our EAP testing program, and our collegiate informational outreach efforts to underserved communities throughout California.

These and numerous other factors have contributed to our attractiveness and reputation as a “University of Choice” throughout California and the western region of
the U.S. This fall we received 61,590 applicants for admission, our largest applicant pool in our history. This fall we will enroll around 700 more students than we did last year (2.7%). Some of the best and brightest that California has to offer are here with us today as part of our newest class of Presidential Scholar’s and reflect the quality of the kind of students we are attracting to The Beach. In addition to these top quality students, we will have many entering our campus who have the capacity to succeed but will be unsure about whether they belong here and lack the confidence in their own ability to succeed. They will most certainly need our help and assistance because the real quality of a great public university is measured more by the kind of student it turns out than the kind it takes in.

Campuswide, we must all continue to improve our graduation rates one student at a time. Currently, our six-year student success/graduation rate is 46%, which is around the mid-point in the CSU. We have come a long way from the early 1990s when we had only 29% of our students graduated, however, we still have some distance to go in order to keep building stronger academic reputation as an “University of Choice” and if we are to help our students succeed in life.

Unfortunately, in comparing percentages, as we often do, we forget perhaps our most significant accomplishment and societal contribution, the number of students that become Cal State Long Beach graduates. What our University achieves more that the vast majority of higher education institutions do not is the fact that last year we graduated 7,911 high quality students. In other words we graduated as many students last year as the University of Virginia and Princeton combined.

This represents a grand achievement in the production of learned human capital. Among this class of graduates were 288 nurses, 488 engineers, 235 social workers, 266 English and writing majors, 267 criminal justice majors, 169 accountants, 130 foreign language experts, 114 MBAs, 349 artists, 170 biologists and microbiologists, and over 1,100 elementary and secondary school teachers. Imagine how many more student lives would be positively impacted forever if we were to improve our student success and graduation rates by simply another 5 or 10 percentage points.

My point in sharing these recent graduation figures with you is that there are only a few universities in the nation that can claim to have this much social and economic impact on their communities, regions, and states. These are the figures that matter the most to evolving knowledge-based economies. These are the figures that matter the most in fulfilling our role as a major public university. And these are the figures that mean the most to the thousands of students that have entrusted us to help them realize their dreams. This is what Cal State Long Beach and the CSU do best, better than the vast majority of universities in the nation. Providing a large number of students with a high quality knowledge base enabling them to become productive and responsible citizens.

We can be proud of how far we have come as a public university and as a societal asset. And we can be proud of the thousands of lives that are shaped, transformed, and energized by our teaching, research, and public service.

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