December 6, 2012Vol. 43, Issue 3

More Than a Fee

In the previous issue of Inside Chico State, I discussed the value of bringing more international students to our campus. Now, having completed a whirlwind trip to China, Korea, and Japan—visiting 14 institutions in nine days—to strengthen partnerships and understandings we currently have with universities there and to establish new ones, I am convinced more than ever of how attractive the University is to students from other countries. And, in turn, their presence on campus will increase our global profile, improve the international literacy of our domestic students, enrich the cultural milieu of our campus and city, and bring additional revenues our way through the non-state fees that these students will pay.

The last point emphasizes how important it is for us to embrace strategies that enable us to take greater control of our financial future. Remember, the passage of Proposition 30 did not bring a single dime to our University. All it did was prevent an additional $250 million immediate cut to the CSU if it failed. That is, an additional cut to the $750 million in lost state General Fund support that our system has suffered over the last three years. That loss has translated into over $30 million on our campus alone. There is no recovery or reinvestment guarantee in our post-Prop. 30 world. There is only a vague notion that, since our budget situation did not fall completely off the cliff, there must be better days ahead.

We cannot count on that. Or, to be more precise, we cannot count on the state to be the author of that script. So, yes, international students will stimulate our living and learning environment, they will enrich our community, they will enable our domestic students to be more comfortable and confident in international conversations and situations, and they will benefit us financially.

This same formula applies to the proposed Chico Compact for Student Success, which, fundamentally, is about strengthening the learning environment of our University for our students and finding reliable non-state revenues to do so.

The Chico Compact recognizes that the definition of student success starts with academic achievement and the resources to enable it. The latter’s elements include access to classes, an enhanced ability to attract new faculty to our University, strong advising services that integrate academic and career advising, improved learning support centers offering tutoring and mentoring, and a sustained commitment to a comprehensive, cutting-edge technological environment. That technological environment encompasses mobile applications and e-learning management systems, campus connectivity, e-learning spaces in Meriam Library and throughout the campus, and first-rate laboratories and scientific equipment.

The definition of success, though, extends beyond this realm. It is echoed in the words of Marion Wright Edelman that a college education should equip a graduate with the ability not just to make a good living, but also to lead a good life. So, yes, our focus includes investments in areas designed to provide our students with a competitive edge as they pursue their careers. But it also extends to an exceptional array of experiences fostering values and behaviors that will provide great benefit to wherever our alumni work and wherever they live.

The Chico Compact is more than a means to find new non-state revenues. It is part of a broad strategy to build a future of our choosing.

Student leadership programs, internships and other applied learning opportunities, participation in national and international competitions, service learning and community service engagements, and opportunities to develop a keener sense of the world beyond Chico and the United States (such as provided through study abroad programs and the interaction with international students studying on our campus), are all ways to broaden perspective and sharpen a lifelong, positive attitude towards learning. They are all part of the Chico Experience, a student-focused, learning-centered scene that recognizes the interaction between the learning that occurs within our classrooms, studios, and labs and that which occurs beyond. It is a scene that acknowledges that students are constantly moving between the formal and informal curricula of our University. And it underscores our efforts to make that movement as seamless, integrated, and meaningful as possible.

Yes, the Chico Compact is about commitments, that is, actions and understandings that will strengthen our academic mission and our ability to support our students. But it is also about a contract with our students. It offers a menu of specific investments that will flow from the fee revenues of the compact. And those revenues, in turn, provide leverage for the University in attracting external support from our friends, donors, and corporate partners. Each of these elements of the compact is interconnected and indispensable to the success of the compact and its ultimate purpose, the success of our students.

So, like our interest in attracting international students, the Chico Compact is more than a means to find new non-state revenues. It is part of a broad strategy to build a future of our choosing—one that invests in student success; invites partnerships to this effect, especially with students; and dares to look forward and higher in defining what we are capable of achieving. I encourage all members of our University to become familiar with the Chico Compact and what it says about our institutional commitments and direction.

Paul J. Zingg