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California State University, Long Beach

2007-2008 Convocation Address: The Year in Review

The Year in Review

When reviewing the successes of the previous year, it is easy to conclude that our University continues to have a great deal of momentum and is progressing rapidly. Collectively, our joint efforts have led to a string of University achievements and accomplishments worth highlighting this morning. These successes clearly demonstrate to me why we are, as the banners on campus proclaim, “Among the Nation’s Best” universities and a “University of Choice” destination for students seeking a quality higher education experience today.

One of many indicators of our University’s success and momentum is the number of applications we received for fall admission.  This fall we received a total of 66,358 applications for admission, which is the largest applicant class in our University’s 58-year history. Of these, 47,000 were new freshman applications, which produced a pool of 4,200 talented new students this fall. This initial class will also include 50 of California’s best valedictorians and National Merit scholars, our President’s Scholars, who will join the 270 other President’s Scholars on campus this fall and were selected from a pool of nearly 600 candidates last spring.

Why are our application numbers so high?  Although it is true that the demand for higher education has never been greater in California, our nation, and the world, this issue alone does not describe our attractiveness as an institution of higher learning.  Today, our Cal State Long Beach reputation is stronger than it has ever been because of numerous reasons. First, our commitment to our students as teachers and scholars has never been greater. Second, many influential rankings have consistently highlighted our University both nationally and throughout the western region of the United States. For example, earlier this month U.S.News & World Report ranked us among the top 5 in the West for 4 years in a row.  Coincidentally, we are the largest university that made it into the top 35 in this year’s ranking.  Last year, the Princeton Review listed us as the nation’s 3rd best public university value. This makes a real statement about the quality of a Cal State Long Beach education while also highlighting the great value and affordability of our institution for so many.  This fall, CSULB will charge $3,100 in student tuition and fees, which is half of the national public university average cost of $6,000 and $300 less than the average CSU cost.

As further evidence of the great value of a CSULB education, U.S.News & World Report also ranked our campus as having the second lowest percentage of students graduating in debt nationally and the lowest percentage of students leaving campus in debt upon graduation in the western United States.  Current figures indicate that approximately 30 percent of our students are graduating with student loan debt compared to the national average of 68 percent.  When you look around, what you will discover is that there is not a better educational deal in American higher education than Cal State Long Beach.

We are also among the nation’s best in graduating students with highly valued degrees. Our students are not having trouble finding good jobs. In fact, most of the concerns that I hear from business leaders, school administrators, and hospital managers, just to name a few, focus on whether we can graduate more students and get them into the economy sooner.

Among our greatest achievements this past year was the fact that our last graduating class was the largest in our institution’s history.  Last year we graduated over 8,100 students, which also ranks us as the nation’s 23rd largest university in degree completion.  Conferring high quality undergraduate and graduate degrees to students is one of the best, if not the best, outcomes that any university can hope to achieve.  To put our overall impact in perspective, our University last year conferred 2,100 more degrees than the University of Iowa, 2,000 degrees more than the University of Missouri, 1,900 more degrees than University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 700 more degrees than the University of Arizona, and 300 more degrees than Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and Dartmouth combined.  Last year CSULB also ranked as the nation’s 8th best for conferring bachelor’s degrees to minority students and 1st in the nation for conferring math and statistics graduate degrees to minority students.  Most importantly, however, our University takes great pride in serving first-generation students who constitute approximately 35 percent of our student body.  Over the last decade we have increased our commitment to lower income students by thousands while most public and private institutions throughout the nation have decreased their willingness to widen their access.

These facts are very important not only for our students but for society at large because as an institution of higher education we hold the keys that will transform our economies.  In this
“knowledge-based economy,” the same knowledge-based economy that Thomas Friedman and Richard Florida readily talk about in their highly acclaimed books, which university would you rather have in your community?   Princeton, William and Mary, or Cal State Long Beach?  Which would you rather have if you are a city councilmember, mayor, state legislator, public school superintendent, business leader or hospital CEO?  There really is no choice in today’s environment where the level of educational attainment will determine the economic competitiveness and well-being of our cities and communities.

I do believe that if Mr. Lincoln were alive today, we would be better suited to fit his vision of what a great “Land-Grant University” should be.  It should not surprise many that our
graduates are the foundation of our local and regional economies and also are the very same graduates who spend their lives helping to improve the lives of other people, whether it is in nursing, criminal justice, social work, engineering, language development, the arts, or teaching in the public schools.

As evidenced by these accomplishments, you can see we are “Among the Nation’s Best” in many ways because we change lives for the betterment of our students and the societies where they live. This past year also was a very good year for our campus because of the strong contractual agreements that will benefit our faculty and staff.  As you know, the ability to offer our employees a competitive compensation package is critical to attracting and retaining highly motivated and qualified faculty and staff. Thanks to the efforts of the labor unions, the Chancellor, the Board of Trustees, and the Governor, we are positioned to continue to offer employees much needed salary increases in the next few years. These contracts help us make up for some lost ground during bad budgetary times and will improve our competitiveness of top faculty and staff for many years to come.

We also have made considerable advancements in locating and partnering with many local developers in the area to provide affordable faculty and staff housing opportunities. This year we will continue to work to identify more housing options that could help many of our faculty and staff in the years to come.    

This past year also witnessed the beginning of great a deal of campus construction including our $31 million library renovation project which includes 100 new faculty offices and numerous new classrooms. The upcoming year will include many additional large projects and campus improvements including the construction of a $70 million Student Recreation and Wellness Center, an $83 million new state-of-the-art Science Complex,  and the addition of the Brooks College property to CSULB, a six-acre campus on Pacific Coast Highway.

Thanks to our thousands of CSULB alumni and friends, the 2006-07 year also proved to be our best fundraising year in recent history. Included in our many fundraising accomplishments was a $7.3 million or 35 percent increase in private gifts to CSULB over the previous year and the largest single-year increase of $6 million, or 20 percent in our University’s endowment in our history. For their work and dedication I would like to thank our directors of development throughout the campus. Without their expertise and energy we would not have had such a great philanthropic year.

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