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Press Release

Continuing the Promise -- Strategies for Higher Education in the New Century


Contact: External_Relations@cpec.ca.gov
Public Information
California Postsecondary Education Commission
1303 J Street, Suite 500
Sacramento, California 95814-2938
916-445-1000

By Warren H. Fox, Executive Director, California Postsecondary Education Commission

Investment in higher education must be a state priority through the first decade of the new millennium. The future economic vitality of California depends in large part on the state's ability to educate its citizens and to help them develop the work and social skills needed to compete with workers of other nations and states in our global economy. Ensuring that California's colleges and universities can accommodate a tidal wave of new students as well as enable those from diverse backgrounds to achieve success in their college careers will require a variety of strategies. California cannot afford to address this critical need by simply building more campuses. Policy makers and educators must move aggressively to develop and implement innovative, creative, and cost effective solutions to ensure that California's students continue to have access to a quality college and university education.

Although California has met past challenges through responsive leadership, our ability to meet this challenge will require new strategies to address unprecedented changes in the state's demographics. Growth in California's public colleges and universities is projected by the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) to increase through the first decade of the new millennium by an unprecedented 714,000 additional students, a 35 percent increase between 1998 and 2010. More than a third of the new students will be Latino, with Blacks comprising 6 percent of the growth, Native Americans 1 percent, Asian students 24 percent, and White students 29 percent of the growth.

Front-line responsibility for providing higher education regardless of race, ethnicity, economic status, gender, or disability belongs to the state's institutions of higher education. Colleges and universities must take positive, strong, and productive steps to systematically increase student recruitment, enrollment, retention, and achievement programs to achieve improved participation among all of the state's population groups. Political leaders must continue to acknowledge and respond to the educational needs of the state's changing population as well -- at every institution.

To successfully address the enrollment demand expected at the doors of California's public colleges and universities, a number of steps must be taken. We recommend the following specific actions be given serious consideration if California is to meet this challenge.

  1. Underrepresented student enrollment and completion rates must be improved if for no other reason than the State's economic and sound progress depend upon it. The initiatives put into place should complement the institutions' missions and should be developed in cooperation with public schools. Successful programs should be replicated and adequately funded statewide. Institutional initiatives and legislative appropriations are necessary in order for programs to be implemented and sustained.
  2. Institutional administrators, faculty, and staff should make every effort to ensure a hospitable campus and community environment for all students.
  3. Institutions should provide meaningful and substantial services to support students' academic success. Career and academic counseling, advising, and tutoring through trained counselors and faculty and student mentors should be encouraged and enhanced at all levels.
  4. Institutions should establish leadership teams, consisting of chief executive officers, faculty, staff, and students, to continue to develop, monitor, and improve projects and methods for overcoming barriers between secondary and post-secondary education for all students, particularly historically underrepresented students. A key element of this effort should include improved methods of identifying student movement that help identify factors involved in the failure of students to complete academic programs.
  5. The student financial aid application process should be simplified. Financial aid is a must for many students who wish to enroll in a college or university. As costs for attendance increase, this need will increase. Unfortunately, the process for applying for many financial aid programs is tedious and cumbersome. Efforts should be made to simplify the process and enhance understanding of financial aid options available to students.
  6. The state's public colleges and universities should be encouraged to establish procedures to increase the number of all students who transfer from community colleges to baccalaureate institutions, public and independent. Barriers that prevent the seamless transition from community colleges to universities and graduate and professional schools need to be eliminated. Because the State's community college student body has a higher percentage of historically underrepresented students than the State's universities, this segment of California's educational enterprise plays an important role in raising the education levels attained by these students.
  7. Students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups, should be encouraged to pursue teaching as a career, particularly in science, math and engineering, to increase the number of public school teachers and administrators.
  8. State government should consider establishing a financial incentive program for funding pilot programs that result in an increase in student participation and achievement in California public higher education.
These recommended actions should be seriously considered as California higher education faces the student demand of Tidal Wave II. It is essential that we recognize the inextricable link between an educated citizenry and economic progress. Pure and simple, Californians deserve no less than a seamless, integrated education system, a system that allows no one to slip through the cracks. Historically acclaimed for excellence and innovation, a responsive and flexible system of postsecondary education is the key to ensure that California will flourish in the new millennium.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Commission, view its reports and recommendations, or learn more about educational opportunity at California institutions of higher learning, may visit the CPEC Home Page on the Internet at http://www.cpec.ca.gov.

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