Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Initiatives Increasing College Opportunity

By Stephanie Thara

The CSU leads the state in awarding the highest number of undergraduate degrees to students of color. Increasing the access, achievement, graduation and employment of students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education continues to be a strategic priority to the CSU.

Dedicated to a mission of boosting college opportunity for disadvantaged students, CSU Initiatives engage local communities in an effort to ensure students have the skills needed to enter college, persist in their studies and graduate.

“The African American, Asian Pacific Islander, Latino, and Native American outreach initiatives that are unique to the CSU and the nation are profound,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White in the State of the CSU address. “They highlight our efforts to serve those communities in partnership with members of the faith-based communities, cultural organizations, civic groups, as well as local school districts and community colleges.”

In February, the African American Initiative (AAI) coordinates CSU Super Sunday—an annual event where CSU trustees, presidents, alumni, students and the Chancellor visit predominantly African American churches throughout the state to give youth and their families the tools needed to successfully enter college. Church members receive information about admissions, the 23 CSU campuses and financial aid, as well as have the opportunity engage with CSU representatives.

The AAI—a partnership between CSU campuses and leaders in the African American Community—also produces additional events throughout the year dedicated to increasing the number of African America students who attend and graduate from college. For example, the AAI holds Super Saturday college fairs that feature workshops and panel sessions on how to prepare early for college and obtain financial aid. The AAI also hosts Math Academies, which are aimed at strengthening mathematical skills and preparing underserved students for academic success. Math Academies give aspiring college scholars free mathematics instruction taught in coordination with African American churches in the East Bay and Los Angeles areas.

On Saturday, Feb. 15, Cal Poly Pomona will host a college expo for students from underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. The expo is part of the CSU AAPI Initiative’s “Journey to Success” program, whose goal is provide families, students and community leaders with information about college preparation, planning and financial aid. For many prospective students in AAPI communities, the college application process may be confusing and can seem difficult to complete without the help of CSU mentors.

“Each of the AAPI subgroups have different backgrounds, different socioeconomic experiences, and different languages,” said Leroy M. Morishita, president of CSU East Bay and chair of the CSU AAPI Initiative, during an AAPI community forum. “With cultural and language barriers, many of their parents have difficulty understanding the educational system and how it operates. Without proper guidance and information, students are not often directed to a path that will lead to access to college and graduation.”

The CSU Latino Initiative—a partnership with Hispanic institutions such as the Parent Institute for Quality Education, Univision, La Opinión and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities—helps inform thousands of Hispanics American families about the value of a college education. Through events like the Es El Momento Education Fair, Latino families learn many career-building possibilities that can result from higher education.

The CSU also partners with committees, alliances and associations to support efforts to promote college-ready students, as well as increase the number of Latino students who aspire to be leaders in the STEM fields: science, engineering, technology and mathematics.

With the goal of bolstering the number of students from Tribal Nations who enroll and graduate from the CSU, several campuses have created partnerships to foster relationships between the tribal communities and the university. Launched in 2007, the CSU San Marcos Tribal Communities Initiatives has exponentially increased the university’s recruitment and retention of Native American students. In fact, the “How to Get to College” brochure was recently published in the Luiseño language thanks to  CSU External Relations and the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at CSU San Marcos.

Humboldt State houses Native American Support Programs that mentor Native American students from the time they are considering college to the day they graduate. For example, Humboldt State’s Indian Natural Resource, Science and Engineering Program and the Indian Tribal Education and Personnel Program have been integral in supporting the professional development of Native students in an expanding array of careers.