State of the University address, 2016

As our previous speakers have noted, it is an exciting time to be at Cal State Monterey Bay. Over the past few years, our university has grown both in enrollment and in academic reputation.

Among the accomplishments during the four years I have been president, we have worked together to begin three new colleges in areas that are vital to our students and to the communities we serve – Business, Education, and Health Sciences and Human Services.

In the past year, we moved into our new Joel and Dena Gambord Business and Information Technology Building and have begun the planning process of our next academic facility, directly west of the Gambord building. We have adopted a revised campus master plan that provides an excellent blueprint for our future development. And we have continued to take steps to make our campus more sustainable in its use of water and other resources.

In short, we have built a strong foundation for our university’s future success. Everyone in this room should be proud of the contributions they have made to this effort. Our university has emerged from the Great Recession and has become an even more valuable resource to our community and our state.

Of course, being located just a mile or so from the world’s largest ocean, we know that clouds and fog can often block out the sun. And there are clouds on our university’s horizon as well. An important part of building a bright and sustainable future for our university is making certain that our financial foundation is strong. And we have some shoring up to do in that regard.

As many of you recall, two years ago, our university opened its doors to an unprecedented number of new students. We had not yet declared impaction, so we had a responsibility to accept all students – from around the state – who met CSU admissions requirements.

We have since taken the necessary steps to allow us to better control enrollment from outside our three-county service area of Monterey, SanBenito and Santa Cruz counties. Still, we face a significant “overhang” of enrolled students for whom we do not receive state funding – 825 last year.

We had hoped for robust state funding that would allow us to make significant progress on reducing that number while still continuing modest enrollment growth. Unfortunately, that is not happening.

In fact, our state funding will grow by only about 2 percent this year. Meanwhile, since we will hold total enrollment constant, tuition revenues will be flat. At this point, our budget shortfall is about $6 million.

This deficit has been building for a couple of years, as the chart shows [Chart1]. As just mentioned, an important contributor to this deficit is the portion of our resident enrollment that is not funded by the State [Chart 2]. Our growth allocation for 2016-17 is small,but it accounts for the reduction in the number of unfunded students shown in this chart. At this rate, it will take several years for funding to catch up with our current enrollment, so we will continue to make the case for larger increases in funded enrollment to the Chancellor’s Office.

The overall deficit is then made up of three distinct components [Chart 3]. The lion’s share is the enrollment funding shortfall, just over $4 million. About$1.9 million represents a true structural deficit, meaning that even if we were fully funded for our current enrollment, we would be exceeding our revenues with our current budgeted expenses.

Finally, about $430, 000 is due to anticipated increases inmandatory costs, including the CSU’s contract with the California Faculty Association and associated increases in other units’ contracts.

I want to stress that I strongly support these contracts, and believe that our faculty members and staff deserve their raises. I have worked in the CSU for a longtime now, and I know our faculty members and staff do a remarkable job, often under difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, these additional costs do play a role in the current budget picture.

We do need to keep the magnitude of the budget challenge inperspective, however [Chart 4]. As you can see, the deficit represents a small percentage of our overall general fund budget (about 2.3%). Nevertheless, it is significant, and we must address it.

You may wonder how we actually handle a deficit position in our budget. We do this by covering the shortfall in any one year from an accumulated reserve of budgeted funds that were unexpended at year-end in prior years [Chart 5]. This chart shows a zig-zagging line over a five-year period, where the peaks represent the reserve balance at the beginning of a fiscal year, and the troughs represent the reserve balance at the end of each fiscal year. We don’t need a statistician to tell us what the trend is here, but in case you are wondering…[Chart 6]. That’s a trend that we want to arrest and reverse.

Download charts from the State of the University presentation

In the meantime, barring some major change in state funding patterns, we expect our enrollment of in-state students to grow slowly in the near future. We will still be able to grow our total enrollment somewhat through out-of-state and international enrollment and self-support programs –whose tuition fully covers associated costs.

We want to eliminate that structural portion of the deficit over the next two years. I have been working with leaders of our departments and administrative units to determine how those reductions will be allocated.

We do not want to impose across-the-board cuts; we need to be strategic in determining how we can find savings. We may be slower to fill some open positions and might have to put some initiatives on hold. By being prudent now, while the deficit is still manageable, we can avoid having to take more drastic steps in the future.

In embarking upon this effort, I am reminded of the story ofthe king who had two of his critics thrown into a dungeon. They spent weeks trying to figure out how to get to the opening they saw high above them, but they couldn’t find a solution.

Then, an economics professor – known as the smartest man in the kingdom – angered the king and he too was thrown into the dungeon.

The two men were excited to see him and told him of their frustrations in trying to escape.

The economics professor told them he had a solution:

“First,” he said. “assume a ladder…..”

We are not going to assume one; we are going to build one.

Along with the need to position ourselves for sustainable growth, I see two other primary goals for the upcoming academic year: Enabling success for every student and creating a more inclusive and respectful community.

Those goals are closely related.

As you know, in recent years, our university and the CSU as a whole have focused on improving retention and graduation rates. It is simply the right thing to do. Add in the cost of higher education with the opportunity costs involved in seeking a degree, and our students make a considerable investment in pursuing their dream of a diploma. We are failing them, if we do not give them every opportunity to achieve that dream. Equally important, our graduates must receive a high-quality education with high academic standards, without which a diploma would mean little.

I have been frank in the past in pointing that our retention and graduation rates have not been acceptable. They continue, however, to move in the right direction. Our most recent six-year freshman graduation rate is 53 percent; that exceeds the 2025 target that the CSU assigned to our campus.

Similarly, our two-year graduation rate for incoming transfers also exceeds our 2025 target.

Of course, you know the next part of the story. As a reward for a job well done, the CSU has raised our targets. But I welcome that. I think we have the team in place to continue our progress.

I could list a number of factors in raising our graduation rate, and I am sure our provost could list many more.

To highlight just a few, our restructured advising effort has, I believe, made our advising much more responsive to student needs.

  • The Otter Model for general education has created a more straightforward path toward completing those basic courses.
  • Our Math Huge developmental program has not just moved more students into math competency – and even into math majors – it has created a model we can use to prevent other students from becoming stuck in developmental courses.
  • We are pleased to be participating in the Reimagining the First Year of College program to find other strategies to ease the transition of students into the academy.

In addition, our academic departments will need to focus on improving the paths to graduation for our upper-division students.

For example, our campus does not consistently include information on when and how frequently our upper-division courses are offered—whether every semester, once a year, or every two years for less popular courses. We also have not developed easy-to-understand flow charts for every program showing the paths to a four-year degree.

An indicator that more work is needed at the upper-division level is recent data that shows that our freshmen and sophomores have reached an average unit load of 15.1, but our juniors and seniors are at an average unit load of 14.1.

In an effort to better support our students outside the classroom, we have added staff in several areas of student affairs. In counseling services, an additional full-time clinical psychologist is on board. The counseling department will also begin its contract with ProtoCall, a 24-7 telephone counseling service that increases times when service is available.

Student Disability Resources has a new counselor on board as well. This will reduce the workload on current professional staff and will allow more students to be seen in a timely manner.

Financial aid applications are up 25 percent on a year-to-year basis. We are adding a full-time financial aid counselor to that office. This will allow students to receive their aid package in a timely manner and reduce the wait time to speak with a counselor.

We have filled a key vacant position in student activities. The director helps provide students with leadership development serves as an advisor to student government and student clubs and encourages the development of student groups with extracurricular and co-curricular engagement programs.

In partnership with the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center, a sexual assault advocate will be dedicated to work with CSUMB students to provide services to those students and employees who may be victims of sexual assault. A 24-hour hotline will also be available to students and employees.

We know that we as a university cannot, and should not, isolate ourselves from issues affecting the larger society.

We are fortunate to live, work, and learn among people with adiversity of backgrounds and viewpoints. Still, we need to reach outside our comfort zones, across differences of race and ethnicity, of gender and sexuality, of age and ideology. We have the opportunity to build bridges of understanding, one relationship at a time.

In that spirit, I commit that our university will engage the issues of racial division, criminal justice, and socio-economic inequality in the coming year.

We will seek to shed light on those issues, to see how the university is impacted, and how we might be able to help alleviate them. Precisely how we will do this will be determined in consultation with our campus community during the early part of this semester.

When talking about the strengths of CSUMB, our students invariably point to personal ties they develop with fellow students, faculty and staff members. That sense of belonging is important, not just to our students’ happiness, but to their academic success.

Similarly, faculty and staff are happier and more productive when they work in an atmosphere where they feel respected and they know that their opinions are valued.

That’s why the creation of an inclusive and respectful campus environment is one of our ongoing goals, and an important area of focus for the upcoming year.

Last academic year, we announced the findings of a comprehensive survey of our campus climate. While those results were generally positive, it is important for us to focus on the areas we must improve.

For example, a substantial minority of students in every ethnic group said they did not feel a sense of belonging on campus. Some faculty and staff members reported that they believe the university has become increasingly hierarchical, as they feel more distance between themselves and the administration.

Some of these perceptions are inevitable as the larger scale of our campus leads to a more complex organization that makes the collaborative nature of our work less transparent.

Nevertheless, as our campus grows, we do not want to lose that sense of personal connection that attracted so many of us here in the first place. Our growing size means that we will have to be more intentional about creating the mechanisms that foster that transparency and connectedness.

These concerns, and many others, will be addressed by our new diversity plan, which will be informed by the findings of the climate survey. We do not want this to be just another checklist of worthwhile programs the university should undertake. We want it to reflect the unique vision and needs of our campus – our students, faculty and staff – and to put forward measurable goals which we can attain.

The process of developing that plan, through consultation with students, faculty and staff, is under way and will continue in the fall semester.

While our university undoubtedly faces challenges in the year ahead, I would be remiss if I did not point out the challenges we have already overcome and the accomplishments that we recorded during the past academic year.

  • In May, we celebrated our 20th Commencement, and for the first time, held two separate ceremonies to honor the record number of graduates.
  • As part of the commencement celebrations, we recognized the graduation of the first cohort of students from our innovative CS-in-3 program, a partnership with Hartnell College and the Matsui Foundation.
  • We also moved forward on another partnership with Hartnell, this one a 2-plus-2-plus-2 teacher education program to be launched by our College of Education in South Monterey County.
  • Two CSUMB students -- Juan Cerda and Jordan Collignon -- became the first from our university to receive Goldwater Scholarships for their work in science and math.
  • Beth Alger and Elisabeth Carrillo continued our university’s outstanding record in earning National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. All four students have been actively involved in our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center.
  • Our University Corporation, at long last, finalized the purchase of the former Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas.
  • The building, now known as CSUMB @ Salinas City Center, and the former Heald college building, now known as CSUMB @ North Salinas, will allow us to improve our outreach to the county’s largest city and bring u scloser to communities up and down the Salinas Valley.
  • Another key part of our community outreach is Bright Futures, the cradle-to-career educational initiative that we have launched in partnership with key Monterey County stakeholders. Great progress has been made in developing a comprehensive data base, in identifying the seven key milestones and associated indicators of educational progress, and in setting an ambitious ten-year goal: to raise the share of Monterey County kindergartner students who attain a post-secondary credential from 20% to 60%.

The next phase of their work will be to launch improvement networks focused on the two most critical milestones: kindergarten readiness and college-and-career readiness. Our two members in the Steering Partners—Bonnie Irwin and José Luis Alvarado—will help campus experts and resources connect with these and other efforts across the pipeline as Bright Futures moves to the action stage.

  • We named a new College of Science dean, Andrew Lawson, an outstanding academic and administrator who we anticipate will be a strongsuccessor to the legendary Marsha Moroh. No pressure, Andrew!
  • We reached an agreement with the City of Seaside through which a portion of the revenues from a commercial development on city land near campus will be used to support scholarships for Seaside students to attend CSUMB.
  • We celebrated the largest gift in our campus’s history, $10 million from Joel and Dena Gambord, to support two endowed professorships, student scholarships and to establish a fund to help student entrepreneurs develop their ideas.
  • In athletics, our Otter teams placed 62 athletes on the CCAA all-academic teams, a record exceeded in the conference only by San Diego State, which has nearly 100 more conference athletes. Meanwhile, our baseball team earned its second NCAA tournament appearance in four seasons and men’s basketball earned its highest conference finish since 2009. And Hannah Bell became the first Otter runner to go to the NCAA championships in cross country and the first in track.

When I see stories about high-profile athletic controversies at universities nationwide, I am extremely grateful to be the president of a university that competes in Division II. The competition is exciting, the games bring together the campus and community, and the student-athletes are truly that: both students and athletes who excel in both roles. Their successes add immeasurably to our university environment and embody Division II’s motto: life in the balance.

My list of university and individual accomplishments could go on much longer, but let’s just say we have much to celebrate at CSUMB.

Of course, our major day of celebration happens every May. This year, at commencement, we applauded the accomplishments of 1,875 candidates for graduation.

One of them was Elizabeth Hensley, who told of her winding path to a college education. After dropping out of high school, thinking o fherself as a failure as a student, she tried out a number of jobs. She finallyearned her high school diploma at adult school.

She went to community college and to CSUMB, where she found great friends, outstanding mentors, and became editor of our award-winning Otter Realm newspaper.

“Change happens when we learn and grow,” Elizabeth told our graduates. “We cannot (because maybe we should not) go back to being the way wewere. And that’s the beauty of our story. We might not know where it’s taking us, but CSUMB has given us the tools to get there.”

Those are the success stories that we, as a university community, are helping write every day. It is important and fulfilling work.

Thank you for another great year and I look forward to your further accomplishments on behalf of our students and our community in the coming year. Thank you for all you do for Cal State Monterey Bay.