Op Ed: CSUDH is Key to Future of South Bay
February 28, 2009
by Mildred García
Published in the Daily Breeze
Last week’s passage of the state budget has both good and bad news for California. The good news was the state averted running out of money and having to lay off thousands and thousands of workers, but with this budget come painful realities for services and state institutions that are part of the fabric that makes California a great state.
The California State University system alone faces a $66.3 million cut from this new budget, on top of the $97.6 million cut originally cut from the 2008-09 budget. For an institution that provides the majority of the workforce for California’s key industries, cuts of that magnitude could have far-reaching impacts. Closer to home on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, the state’s fiscal crisis creates a real challenge, and regardless of whether you or a family member is attending here or not, cuts on this campus impact you as well.
How, you ask? As the only four-year public university between the Port of Los Angeles and LAX, the economic contribution CSU Dominguez Hills makes to the South Bay and metropolitan Los Angeles region is immense. Our annual spending contributes a total of $388 million to the local economy. This, in turn, sustains more than 8,000 jobs in the region, and generates nearly $20 million per year in tax revenue.
Each year, CSU Dominguez Hills graduates approximately 2,500 students that have learned to work in a diverse, global environment and are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Since our inception in 1960, more than 60,000 students have graduated from here. Our alumni are everywhere, in every walk of life throughout California and the nation, but a vast majority still calls the South Bay home. They are your teachers, city officials, state legislators, local business people, entrepreneurs, and nurses. Many are first in their families to go to college and all have stories to tell of what their education has meant to them and how it has impacted the quality of their lives.
During hard economic times, people often make the decision to return to higher education to gain additional skills and credentials. This year CSU Dominguez Hills has been successful in reaching its enrollment goals and applications continue to climb. Unfortunately, just as we are poised to educate more students, these cuts mean we may not receive the necessary funding to do so. Funding reductions will make it very challenging to maintain quality for the students who come to us to improve their lives. When students are denied access and services, the state economy and workforce suffers.
Please help ensure that we continue to prosper despite the current economic climate. We will do our part and continue to take actions that reduce costs while doing everything we can to protect our students, faculty and staff. Mission-critical services, which include a robust class schedule, retention of tenure and tenure-track faculty, and essential student support services, are our highest priorities. Reductions include travel restrictions for employees, cancellation of non-critical purchases, a hiring freeze on all positions except essential ones, and a salary freeze for all senior executives.
Cuts are certainly unavoidable. We all must do our part to tighten our belts and take a serious look at where and how money is spent. However, we cannot afford to stop investing in a higher education system that supports the state economic engine and has been the envy of the world since its inception.
As syndicated columnist Tom Elias underscored in a commentary last week, “California led the world in growth when it pioneered community colleges and set up history’s largest public university system. As support ebbed for those institutions and the schools that feed students into them, so did business growth.”
Although the budget has been passed, there are still issues to be resolved that may have additional impacts on our funding. There is no better time than now to ask for continued support and advocacy for higher education.
With no one group in the majority, CSU Dominguez Hills reflects the rich, cultural diversity of the South Bay, state and nation. We are uniquely positioned demographically, geographically and philosophically to be a model urban university, growing our role as the educational and cultural center for the South Bay. Join us in our commitment and resolve to do all that we can to preserve access to the affordable, high-quality education available at CSU Dominguez Hills and throughout the CSU. We encourage you to write letters to legislators emphasizing how critical it is to fund education.
Our students are the global leaders of tomorrow and the people needed to shape and secure the South Bay and California’s future.
Dr. Mildred García is president of California State University, Dominguez Hills.