A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
February 15, 2007 Volume 37 / Number 5

 

From the President's Desk

Access, Equity, and Excellence

Try as we might to convince the folks in Sacramento who determine our state budget allocation that we should be measured by the quality of our work, as reflected primarily in the learning and success of our students, the CSU, like most of public higher education, remains stuck in an old industrial rewards model. Our production units are course units, which translate into FTES (full-time equivalent students), the coin of the realm in these matters. This, as every faculty member knows, creates a world of conflicting signals. On one hand, we are in an era of outcomes assessment, directed by accreditation agencies and good educational sense to assess and ensure student learning. On the other, we are rewarded budgetarily by the number of students who sit in our classrooms, not necessarily by what happens to them.

As long as this funding model continues—and there is no sign of a serious alternative in the works—we are at the mercy of hitting our enrollment targets in order to receive our General Fund allocation and new enrollment growth dollars. The heart of the Governor’s Compact for Higher Education, now in its fourth year, reflects this model. It is a simple arrangement. In exchange for increases in the CSU’s General Fund allocation (4% for 2006–2007), the CSU must increase its FTES 2.5%. This does not mean that every CSU campus must grow 2.5% a year. (About two years ago we negotiated an annual growth rate for Chico State of approximately 1.8%, in line with our Master Plan.) But it does mean that campuses must hit their allocated targets, or they will suffer financial consequences. This year, almost one-third of the campuses in the CSU failed to meet their targets, resulting in the removal from their budgets of millions of dollars.

Fortunately for us, we have hit our targets for each of the Compact years. Moreover, we have done so in spite of the fact that only 8% of our freshmen come from our service area, and in ways that have significantly increased the quality and diversity of our incoming class. For us, access, equity and excellence are closely related and are helping define the kind of university and community we are.
Consider these indicators for our recent freshman classes, the bulk of our new enrollments each year:

  • Our overall freshman applicant pool for fall 2007 is more than 15,000, nearly a 20% increase in one year. The overall freshman applicant pool for the CSU has increased 8%, which means that we are attracting many more students who have identified Chico among their top choices. Since 2000, our freshman applicant pool has more than doubled; since 2003, it has increased 50%.
  • Because of the depth of our applicant pool, we can be more selective in admissions by using academically conservative standards to meet CSU requirements. We admitted almost 85% of our CSU-eligible pool last year to yield enough enrollees to make target. For fall 2007, we will need to admit only about 75% of our eligible applicants to hit our Compact-assigned target.
  • Another indicator of quality is the growing interest of out-of-state applicants, which have increased 155% this year compared to last.
  • In terms of SAT testing, the combined score of our admits has risen from 1038 to 1054.
  • The number of applications from students of color (African American, American Indian/Alaskan, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Mexican American/other Latino) has increased by 25% compared to this ime last year, and now constitutes 42% of our applicant pool. Such students were only 25% of our applicant pool in 2000 and 32% of the pool in 2003.
  • Offers of admission to students of color are up 29% for the freshman class of 2007 over 2006, and these students currently represent more than 35% of the total number of admits. In 2000, these tudents represented 21% of our freshman admits, and 29% in 2003.
  • As for those who enroll, students of color constitute almost 26% of our fall 2006 freshmen. In 2000, this percentage was 18.6%; in 2003, it was 21.8%. These are remarkable numbers in many respects, but no less so because the diversity in the K–12 enrollments in our service area is significantly lower than the diversity we are succeeding in bringing to the University. We have to work extremely hard to attract the diversity-eligible students in our service area and to fare well in the competition for these students elsewhere in the state.

We should be encouraged by all of these numbers and particularly appreciative of the University-wide effort it takes to enact one of the key institutional values as stated in our Strategic Plan—the pursuit of diversity “not just as an idea to embrace, but as a community to form.” The elements of this effort are many:

  • Admissions counselors who blanket our service area and visit selected high schools and college fairs throughout the state.
  • Deans, faculty, and the staff of such campus programs as Upward Bound, EOP, MESA, Educational Talent Search, and the Business Resource Center, who individually contact prospective students, invite them to the campus, and provide assistance once enrolled.
  • Early admissions tools and strategies and redesigned paper and Web publications for underrepresented populations.
  • Transportation and meals-provided events for prospective students on campus and targeted receptions throughout the state.
  • An increased national profile for our diversity efforts and increased financial aid for our students.
  • Strong assistance from our current students of color to recruit others.
  • An integrated approach to retention and persistence that includes faculty and staff advising, Getting Connected, Summer Orientation, the First Year Experience, and other programs.
  • The leadership of the Office of Admissions, Enrollment Management Committee, and Strategic Enrollment Committee, and the development of a Diversity Scorecard.

All of this adds up to an effort that enables the University not only to meet its enrollment goals, but also to become a more interesting and compelling place in the process. Our efforts underscore that access and equity in higher education are keys to a knowledge-based economy, a sound social fabric, and an engaged democracy. Our enrollment effort is not just about hitting a target. It is about achieving excellence through a rich learning environment for our students and shaping the future of our region, state, and nation.}

—Paul J. Zingg, President