Dear friends of Cal State Monterey Bay,
When President Barack Obama presented his plan this summer to make college more affordable, it was met by, at best, restrained applause.
Clearly, any wide-ranging effort to institute a new rating system for colleges and universities, to change the way federal financial aid is funded, to encourage the use of new classroom technologies and to introduce new repayment options for college loans will pick up critics at many stops along the way.
However, whether the president’s proposals are enacted or not, the discussions that these ideas encourage are exactly the ones we need to have.
- How do we control rising tuition and student loan debt?
- How do we measure educational outcomes?
- How do we explain those outcomes in a way that would be most helpful for prospective students and their parents?
As this debate moves forward, Cal State Monterey Bay has some clear strengths. Despite tuition increases in recent years caused by reductions in state funding, the Cal State system remains among the nation’s most affordable public university options. In 2012-13, in-state public university tuition and fees nationwide averaged $8,655. For CSUMB, that figure was $5,963, and it remains the same this year.
In part because of lower fees, Cal State graduates tend to have lower student loan burdens than do students nationwide.
One laudable aspect of the president’s proposals is the attempt to measure educational outcomes. Too many college ratings focus on inputs – amount spent per student or the academic qualifications of incoming students, for example – and not on results.
I believe CSUMB has a strong story to tell in this regard. We admit many first-generation and low-income students and help them become college graduates. Through unique experiences like service learning and capstone projects, we provide them not only with multidisciplinary knowledge, but also with the real-world skills they will need in their careers and in life.
Can we do better? Undoubtedly. In student retention and graduation rates, while we have been improving, we still have far to go. When looking at outcomes, degree attainment is a vital measure; we must improve our performance without watering down the education our students receive.
Our most important message is that we welcome accountability. We owe that to our students, to our donors, and to California’s taxpayers.
Eduardo M. Ochoa, President