There is an ingrained sense of hope for the future that is apparent among those who work within education. Whether it’s the kindergarten teacher helping children with the very basics, a high school chemistry instructor working in the lab, or a university professor helping to move students toward meaningful careers, the underlying sentiment is hope – for students, for society, for all of us. Unfortunately, we are in danger of being the only generation in U.S. history that leaves the next generation with a lower standard of living and economic expectation by providing our young people fewer opportunities to attend college., Many emerging signs have indicated that the American ideal of social mobility, which has been part of this nation for generations, is in the process of being diminished, impacting future successes of promising young men and women.
We are surrounded by prolonged stories about the economy that impact every sector of business and industry and every corner of our nation. This year is especially difficult in California and in our state’s institutions of public higher education. Already the California State University system has taken a single-year funding reduction of $650 million – or 21 percent, and there is strong likelihood that in December the system will receive another $100 million cut in state resources. At Cal State Long Beach, this reflects a drop in our state funding to $4,500 per student which means that our funding from the state will be below 25 percent of our total resources for the first time in history. This challenges the concept of state supported higher education, moving state funding to simply “assistance” rather than support.
There are obvious impacts of financial reductions of this magnitude at our university: fewer classes for students, fewer applicants accepted to the university, larger class sizes, reduction in services offered to students. But what we must consider is the long-term impact of cuts such as these. When we look at the economy’s impact on business and industry, we must also consider how the funding of education ultimately affects – either positively or negatively – how these sectors will fare in years to come. Employers tell us that the quality of CSULB’s graduates is exceptional; they are well prepared and well qualified to enter the workforce as engineers, scientists, doctors and nurses, accountants, teachers. This is how the outcome of a college education can be measured: our graduates and our alumni have a proven track record in the work place that ultimately benefits us all. In fact, the mid-career average earnings of CSULB graduates continuously rank among the best in the nation.
Supporting today’s students and their dreams to build an even more vibrant economy and society has never been more important than it is today. If you consider the university’s accomplishments and recognitions citing the quality education and exceptional value we offer our students, you will recognize that no university in the nation leads better by example than CSULB. When you speak of our university, you can do so with great pride in our accomplishments. And when you think about our current students and recent graduates, view them with the same hope and ambition that we at CSULB share. Let your local legislators know that you expect nothing less from them. It’s time to once again support public higher education in California. There are countless bright minds who will benefit from the investment. More importantly, however, it will be the citizens of California who will be the true beneficiaries at the end of the day.
F. King Alexander