Cal State, buoyed by Newsom’s generous budget proposal, to boost enrollment

Cal State University trustee Rebecca Eisen, right, listens to Chancellor Timothy P. White speak during a meeting at CSU Chancellors Office in Long Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

California State University is poised to enroll thousands more Californians and step up support to help them graduate sooner, thanks to a hefty increase in state funding proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Cal State trustees will take their first collective look at the governor’s 2019-20 budget proposal and discuss plans to improve student success at their two-day meeting, which begins Tuesday in Long Beach.

Newsom is proposing a $300-million increase in permanent funding, the single largest proposed investment by any governor in the history of the 23-campus system.


In his budget message, Newsom said he viewed higher education as critical to developing the skilled workforce needed for the state and helping Californians climb up the economic ladder. Cal State, he noted, is central to that task as it trains about half of the state’s teachers, more than half of the nurses and other students who specialize in business, engineering, information technology, agriculture, communications, health and public administration.

Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White hailed Newsom’s “bold investment.”

“Governor Newsom called for Californians to prove that people of good faith and firm will can still come together to achieve big things,” White said in statement. “The CSU is the key to the state’s future, and there is no better investment for the California he envisions.”

The proposed $300-million increase would help fund the university’s initiative to raise four-year graduation rates to 40%, six-year rates to 70% and two-year transfer graduation rates to 45% by 2025. Cal State also aims to close achievement gaps between low-income and underrepresented minority students and their peers by then.

Trustees will be updated on the progress of the initiative, which was launched in 2016.

Cal State, the nation’s largest and most diverse public university system, announced last fall that graduation rates had hit a record high. The 2018 four-year graduation rate for freshmen went up more than 6 percentage points since 2015, to 25%. The six-year rate rose to 61.1% from 57% during that same period.


White has said that shortening the time it takes to graduate by just one semester would immediately save students $13,000 in educational costs, reduce their debt and help them jump-start their careers.

In 2017-18, campuses added 4,300 new course sections, opening 90,000 additional seats and reducing bottlenecks. Some have offered students small sums in micro-grants to help them get over the finish line. Faculty and academic advisors are making more use of data to identify struggling students and quickly step in to help.

Newsom’s proposed increase also would help Cal State enroll more than 8,100 additional California students in 2019-20 — amounting to a 2% enrollment increase. Although university officials had asked for enough funds to enroll 21,000 more students, they said they were grateful for any increase to help open seats. Cal State had to turn away 32,000 fully qualified students in 2017-18 because there was no room for them.

Six of the system’s campuses — Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, San Diego, San Jose and San Luis Obispo — are in such high demand that each of their programs has more qualified applicants than can be accommodated by current space and staffing levels.

The governor also is proposing one-time allocations of $247 million to help repair aging facilities and $15 million to support students struggling with hunger and housing. He said his overall funding increases were provided with the expectation that “tuition will remain flat, access will be increased, and time to degree will improve.”

In other matters, trustees plan to discuss student financial aid and a program to help community college students transfer to Cal State.

The meeting agenda and livestream of open sessions can be found here.

Twitter: @TeresaWatanabe