He toured the Cal Poly Pomona campus, met some staff, and chatted with student leaders.
And when Timothy P. White, chancellor of the Cal State University system, took to the stage in the Ursa Major room of the Bronco Student Center Tuesday, he flopped down in an armchair and put his feet up on the table, something that elicited a roar of laughter from the faculty, staff, and students.
White, 63, previously served as the chancellor at U.C. Riverside. He became chancellor of the CSU in October, the seventh in the system’s 52-year history.
His visit to Cal Poly Pomona was part of planned tour of all 23 CSU campuses. Cal Poly was the ninth in line.
Although White joked with audiences, he also fielded questions of a serious nature on tuition hikes, Proposition 30, and graduation rates.
While some regions in California, such as the Silicon Valley, are doing better economically, the Inland Empire still continues to grapple with high unemployment and foreclosure rates, White said. So, it says something that voters supported Proposition 30, he said.
“To me, that’s a wonderful sign, but it also carries with it a huge responsibility,” he said. “The public at large said enough is enough on disinvesting in education.”
White said that state support for higher education has decreased in the past six years, resulting in increased tuition. Gov. Jerry Brown has said the CSUs will get $125 million next year due to the passage of Proposition 30, which is a 5 percent increase in the state appropriation, White said.
The passage of the tax hike measure will enable the CSUs to keep tuition flat this year and next year, he said.
“The years beyond that who knows,” he said. “None of us want to raise tuition but if we do, we want it to be small, incremental, and predictable so people know it’s coming.”
Cal Poly Pomona has been good about increasing financial aid for students who qualify for need-based aid as tuition has gone up, he said. The issue is with middle class students who don’t qualify for need-based or haven’t received scholarships, he said.
White also shared thoughts on a proposal to tie funding for state universities to performance measures or graduation rates.
The proposal would negatively affect part-time, working, and older students, as well as those who might need to take a remedial class or opt to change majors, White said. The way to raise graduation rates would be to turn these kinds of students away, something that would not be beneficial, he said.
“None of those things are to California’s advantage, but the conversation about performance measures is to put those in and say if you don’t meet those goals, you’ll lose $20 million here and $20 million there,” he said. “Don’t change our mission. Our mission is to accept people who are academically qualified and willing to do the work. Period. Some are on a four-year plan, some are on a 12-year plan, some start and stop.”
Student leaders who met with White said they found him very accessible.
Christine Hall, vice president of Cal Poly’s Associated Students Inc., said it was her second time meeting White.
“He’s very charismatic and I think he’s in tune with the students,” said the 21-year-old communications major. “He takes time to connect. I think he has that genuine care for students.”