California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White on Wednesday announced an ambitious agenda to move students more quickly to graduation by hiring more experienced faculty and advisors, increasing online courses and boosting other opportunities to help students succeed.
The measures are part of a $50-million project that aims over the next decade to increase graduation rates by 10% for undergraduates and 5% for those who transfer from community colleges as well as to improve the overall learning environment for students, White said.
The plan was announced in White's first "state of the university" address to the Board of Trustees in Long Beach. The 23-campus system is the largest system of higher education in the nation, serving more than 440,000 students.
"Our top priority must be to firm up our fiscal and policy commitments to access, persistence to degree and degree completion — to improve the educational experience and degree attainment for all students and to enable students to earn a high quality degree in a shorter amount of time, " White said.
Gov. Jerry Brown, who attended the meeting, said he was impressed by White's plan.
"Good, solid," Brown said. "It lays out the challenges, but also recognizes the fantastic contributions the state colleges make to California."
White, who took over as chancellor in December 2012, said in an interview after his address that funding for the proposals would come from state funds, as well as philanthropic and corporate interests. Brown's 2014-15 spending plan includes an increase of $142.2 million for Cal State, less than the $237.6 million the university had hoped for.
White said that some money for the new initiative might need to be redirected from other programs, but that he would consult with faculty and college leaders. Tuition, however, was expected to remain flat, with the possible exception of some campus-based and other fees, he said.
White identified seven key areas to spur student success:
• Hiring more tenure-track faculty as opposed to lecturers, who may be less experienced and may have less time to mentor students.
• Appointing more advisors to help students graduate.
• Developing more online courses in high-demand subjects that would be open to students from all campuses.
• Ensuring that more students are prepared for college-level English and math before enrolling.
• Increasing programs such as internships, study abroad and service learning, that keep students in school.
• Gathering more data about what programs work.
• Using admission preferences to improve access for community college transfers.
These moves are crucial, White said, because the state will need to produce an additional 1 million college graduates by 2025 to meet workforce needs. Cal State, he noted, awards nearly half of the state's baccalaureate degrees.
Meanwhile, demand is greater than ever. The system received more than 760,000 undergraduate applications for fall 2014.
Board Chairman Bob Linscheid said the initiative reflects the board's charge to focus more fully on meeting student needs.
"If each part [of White's plan] can make a small bite into the problem, it goes a long way to getting to a solution," Linscheid said.