It’s customary that when people graduate they receive gifts from family and close friends. It’s a way of saying, “We’re proud of you.”
We, too, are proud of those people throughout our region who have earned diplomas and will be walking across various stages – high school, junior college and college – and into the next stages of their lives. It’s a moment filled with possibility, promise and pride.
While we don’t have a gift for you, most of you have already gotten a pretty nice gift from California’s taxpayers.
Yes, we recognize that most of you paid tuition, bought books, spent your money on meals and even to rent graduation gowns. But the University of California, California State University, California Community College and our public K-12 school systems are possible only because of enormous annual support from taxpayers. Last year, Californians spent roughly $80 billion on education.
Why do we do make these investments? It’s not entirely altruistic (a word you should know by now); it’s because we’re making an investment – in your future and ours.
It’s entirely appropriate, then, that we want to make certain our money is well spent. So, when we learn of $175 million being tucked away inside the UC system, our eyebrows rise. And when we read, as we did 18 months ago, that only 20 percent of CSU students graduate in four years, we shake our heads.
But this year we’ve got reason to be optimistic. After a concerted effort by the entire, 23-campus CSU system, more students are graduating and graduating more quickly. That means there will be more room for those graduating high school in the next few weeks and that more of you will find jobs and start repaying those student loans.
Following the CSU graduation report, each campus was given $1 million and asked to create its own programs. At Stan State, President Ellen Junn launched a 10-prong effort that put professors in closer contact with students, focused on more support for sophomores, concentrated on writing and offered first-year seminars among other programs.
There was even something called “intrusive advising,” which sounds like institutionalizing nagging. Apparently it works.
Historically, Stanislaus State has been a beacon for first-generation college students, with almost 80 percent of 2015’s incoming first-years being the first in their families to attend college. Unfortunately, many of these students face obstacles in continuing or completing their degrees. Many drop out or take extended breaks.
But in 2016, some 84 percent of Stan State’s first-generation students returned for their second year. Due to “intrusive advising” or other incentives, Stan State is doing something right.
In all, 95,000 students will receive CSU diplomas across the state – including some 2,900 at Stanislaus State in three ceremonies Thursday and Friday. That’s the highest number of degrees the university has awarded in its history.
More can be done. In Senate Bill 803, Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda has tried to provide incentive with tuition aid for students who keep their promise to graduate in four years. We hope it passes.
Those graduating at Stan State over the next two days are making their families proud. Meanwhile, last September’s incoming class was the largest in school history. In May 2020, we hope even more students will be taking those all important step across the stage and into their future.