California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White discussed methods to make the CSU system more effective, fair and affordable during his first news conference of the year Wednesday.
“Timothy White is the seventh chancellor, but in many ways he is the first,” said Erik Fallis, CSU spokesman. “He is the first chancellor to attend one of our campuses. In fact, he attended all three public education systems in California.”
According to his biography on the CSU website, White's last position was chancellor of UC Riverside before taking over the CSU chancellor position this year after the retirement of Charles Reed in 2012.
White said he is optimistic taking over at a time when the budget situation is improving and assured that a change in infrastructure is on its way.
“The way in which we funded higher education in the past of simply going and asking for more and more and more isn't a sustainable model,” White said. “We'll price ourselves beyond what taxpayers can afford and what students can afford, so we have to find different ways to go about our business.”
Although he said he's determined to turn things around, White gave a warning to students expecting a tremendous amount of immediate improvements.
“It's not going to seem like, come July 1 when the budget is enacted, all of a sudden the sun is shining everyday and there's unlimited access to every course you need at the right time and the adviser is right around the corner, (and) it's not going to be that,” White said. “This is a multi-year investment that really matters strategically and tactically for student success and for a learning environment. I think the biggest thing each individual student will feel is not writing a bigger check.”
The CSU's current budget is about $500 million dollars less than it was four or five years ago, White said.
“Right now, the planning horizon is that there isn't a tuition increase this year and there won't be one next year,” White said. “We'll have to sort of see how it goes in the years after that, the goal is to not raise tuition for quite some time now, and I think that's a way in which individual students will say, 'Good, I can plan and I'm not going to get at the front door and find out that … it's costing me another thousand dollars that I don't have and I have to either take greater debt or stop out.'”
White talked about the use of technology in improving the quality of education and lowering costs in the CSU system.
“I think it's really the integration of technology and the kinds of courses and the sorts of levels of content where you can do it, but its the interfacing," he said. "It's really the blending, if you will, the fusion of faculty and technology and students that creates that learning environment of the future.”
White said new technology will be implemented to help the efficiency rate of courses where most students struggle and assist students to save money on textbooks.
He said $10 million will be used to fund online education for classes with high failure rates.
“I think we have a moral responsibility to identify places where we have a low level of success and instead of saying what's wrong with the student say, 'Hey, what's wrong with the way we are going about teaching this knowledge,' and I'm encouraged to have some resources to be able to do that,” he said. “There's a lot of innovation that has been happening with technology in the Cal State and it's really one of the vanguards.”
He said online classes will be used for classes where the subject matter remained unchanged in the last 50 years, such as algebra. Also, classes that require more discussion-based learning will remain untouched.,
“I think we have to be smart in using technology where it makes sense to be more effective and more efficient but not use technology as the end all because that's not what a university education is about,” White said.
At one point in the conference, White directed attention to cluttered stacks of about 20 textbooks on the desk of the panel, and he explained how the cost of textbooks has come to exceed the cost of living since his college days when he earned $2 an hour.
“If I do the math, back then, … five hours of work bought me a textbook,” White said. “I don't know what the hourly rate is, let's say $8 or $10 … if you do the math, it takes you about 22 hours of work to buy a textbook.”
He said the CSU Rent Digital program will help save students hundreds of dollars a semester by offering savings of around 60 to 70 percent off the original price of the new, physical counterparts.
“It will help us push the cost of college back down to where it belongs, which is a public good,” he said. “It's really an issue of social justice and equity if you think about it. We can keep our tuition as low as possible but then if you can't get the book because it's so much money, what do we gain?"
White said while the role of technology becomes more important in improving the CSU experience, the roles of facility maintenance and a growing student body will diminish.
White said a lack of resources will lead to a decrease in the basic upkeep of buildings on CSU campuses to maintain things such as carpet and paint.
According to White, applications for enrollment to CSU remain high, but admission rates will stay the same.
White said his overall goals to be more efficient and more effective applies to all CSU campuses, but the way to achieve them depends on the individuality of the campus.
“I have this third grader and I think about his ability to paint, he uses three colors, and it's pretty good art … but it's third grade art,” White said. “Twenty-three colors you can paint a Monet, and I think that's what we have in our grasp here is something that goes well beyond the individual colors of the system — individual campuses that create a force in California and this nation that is like no other.”