A recent edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education includes an in-depth examination of the reasons for and consequences of declining public support of higher education.

A series of articles looks at a variety of factors, including the recession, the anti-tax movement, powerful lobbying efforts by competing budgetary interests and the seeming inability of public higher education leaders to unite behind a single message.

While people can argue about the causes, the effect of those reductions is clear. The burden of paying for higher education largely has shifted from the state to individual students and their families.

An on-line Chronicle graphic shows how the sources of revenue for public higher education have changed over the last 25 years. Cal State Monterey Bay isn’t included – we weren’t around 25 years ago – but the average statistics for our fellow CSUs are illustrative.

On average, the CSU campuses received 75.6 percent of their revenue from state support in 1987. By 2012, the share coming from state support had fallen to 40.4 percent.

Citing similar numbers nationwide, the Chronicle comes to an inescapable conclusion: “Public colleges, once viewed as worthy of collective investment for the greater good, are increasingly treated as vehicles delivering a personal benefit to students, who ought to foot the bill themselves.”

In late February, I joined my CSU colleagues in Washington, D.C. to make the case for higher education funding. Later this month, we will visit Sacramento to mount a similar effort. Most lawmakers with whom we meet clearly understand the impact of these trends, but face a myriad of competing interests in allocating more funding.

In an accompanying Chronicle article, Suzanne Mettler, a professor of government at Cornell University and author of the book, Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream, discusses how these changes have undermined efforts to provide opportunities for those at the lower end of the economic ladder.

“For the United States to effectively expand opportunity to low- and middle-income Americans, enabling them to enroll in college, gain a good education, and graduate while not taking on an unreasonable amount of debt, we must redirect resources and invest in institutions and policies that promise to be most effective,” Dr. Mettler writes.

This is where our university can make an important contribution. Despite tuition increases during the Great Recession, the CSU remains one of our nation’s most affordable public education options. And CSUMB has the lowest combined tuition and fee structure of all CSUs.

Our university faces challenges in serving more students and raising their graduation rates at a time when our funding remains below pre-recession levels. But clearly, in an improving economic environment, we are well-positioned to serve students that Dr. Mettler and other observers fear are being left behind by current trends in higher education.

It is tempting to bemoan the trends that have resulted in funding cutbacks and tuition increases. Better, though, for us to maximize our strengths and move forward to achieve our university’s vision of inclusion and outreach, which is as vital today as it was when it was adopted two decades ago.

Herald Building: The purchase by the University Corporation of the Monterey Herald building, which was announced this week, opens up a number of possibilities for our university. We are currently experiencing a space crunch that particularly impacts our research efforts. That problem will be exacerbated as we remove more blighted buildings, some of which are partially occupied.

While we are only beginning campus discussions of uses for the building, I believe that research space and room for extended education classes and meetings and seminars are sound possibilities. The Ryan Ranch location will allow us to provide more convenient outreach to Monterey.

This purchase is only the latest example of how our campus greatly benefits from the prudent financial management of the University Corporation.

Honors Convocation: Our Honors Convocation has become an increasingly popular year-end event, to the extent that it has outgrown its traditional site in the University Center ballroom. This year, we are shifting the convocation from its traditional April date to the Friday before commencement. The event will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. May 16 at Freeman Stadium.

The new date and site should allow more parents – who might be unable to make two trips to campus – to attend both the convocation and commencement. The new venue will allow us to accommodate a larger audience. We expect it will be a great way to celebrate the accomplishments of our most outstanding students.

As always, I welcome your comments on this newsletter or on any issues facing the university. You may direct them to president@csumb.edu.


Eduardo Ochoa signature

Eduardo M. Ochoa
President, Cal State Monterey Bay