CSUMB Working Hard to Improve Access for Students

In December, Cal State Monterey Bay hosted approximately 3,200 sixth-graders from Alisal Union, Gonzales Unified, Monterey Peninsula Unified and Salinas City Elementary school districts as part of our University Promise program

The students received information on the classes they will need to take, on a year-by-year basis, to prepare themselves for college. They heard from administrators and successful college students and took a campus tour.

We want to plant the idea with young students countywide that – through focus, determination and hard work -- college is possible.

It is an important message, very much in line with our Founding Vision, which calls on CSUMB to reach out to underserved populations. It is a vision that is even more vital today, as our state and nation faces a potential shortage of college graduates.

You cannot come away from speaking to a room full of enthusiastic sixth-graders without feeling good about our collective future. However, I realize that they will face considerable challenges in achieving their dreams. Some challenges will be unique to each individual. Others will result from our state’s failure to provide adequate room in our UC and CSU systems for qualified applicants.

In November, the Campaign for College Opportunity issued a report entitled “Access Denied: Rising Selectivity at California’s Public Universities.”

The report states:

"The value of a college degree in the 21st century has never been higher. More Californians are prepared for college and want to go, yet our public universities cannot accommodate all of the eligible students and the state has failed to invest the resources necessary to expand college access to keep pace with demand.”

Among the points raised by the report:

* Those who wish to attend the UC must have near perfect grades and scores to get in. Freshman students admitted to six of the nine UC campuses in 2014 had an average weighted GPA of over 4.0. 


*Between 2009 and 2014, budget cuts and limited space have forced the CSU to turn away 139,697 eligible California students.

*California ranks 49th among states in the percentage of undergraduate students enrolled in a four-year university (public or private not-for-profit).

*Between 2003 and 2010, California’s prison population increased by only one percent, while general fund expenditures on corrections increased by 26 percent. During the same period, UC and CSU enrollment increased by 13 percent, while general expenditures for higher education decreased by nine percent.

Nov. 30 marked the close of the freshman application period for students seeking a place on UC or CSU campuses next fall. That means the period of anxious waiting for word of acceptance or rejection is underway. While there will always be students who fall just short of any admission standard, we owe it to our next generation to determine how we, as a higher education system, can be more inclusive.

At CSUMB, and in the CSU as a whole, we continue to see record levels of freshmen applications, with increases of about 5 percent each year. Based on current budget projections, wewill be able to increase our enrollment by only about 1.5 percent for 2016-17.

Last year, we were forced to take steps to declare impaction, which permits us to impose additional requirements on applicants from outside our service area – Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties -- to better control our overall enrollment.

As anyone who has visited the CSUMB campus can attest, we have room to grow. We are eager to offer opportunities to a greater number of qualified students, if we are funded to do so.

The nonpartisan Public Policy Institute projects that California faces a shortage of 1.1 million college-educated workers by 2030. That’s another reason why we should not be putting barriers in the way of potential graduates.

Without question, our state’s community college system provides opportunities for many students – those who are seeking associate’s degrees, pursuing training in specific areas and those who plan to transfer to a four-year school. At CSUMB,we have sought to enhance our ties to our area’s community colleges and greatly value the education our area’s students receive there.

However, only a fraction of students who attend community college with the intent to transfer to a four-year university actually do so. And those who do apply to transfer to the UC or CSU run into the same constraints as first-year applicants.

In light of the space crunch at our public four-year universities, the California Master Plan for Higher Education, which made our state a leader when it was enacted, clearly needs to be re-examined.

Short of a complete reappraisal of our higher education system, more funding to allow us to expand opportunities would provide some relief, both to colleges and to our prospective students and their parents.

Specifically at CSUMB, we have promises to keep to all those excited sixth-graders. It is vital -- to them, to us, to our state, and to our nation -- that we do so.

(Published by the Salinas Californian, 1/6/16)