California State University, Fullerton

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Provost Builds Foundation for Campus Success

April 10, 2013

José L. Cruz, provost and vice president for academic affairs, is proud to be a Titan.

"Over the past three months, I've learned much about this great university, its people, its ways and its traditions. I understand what my colleagues mean when they say that 'learning is preeminent' on this campus, and I understand what it means to revel in Titan pride."

Prior to arriving on campus, Cruz served as vice president of higher education policy and practice at The Education Trust, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. While there, he oversaw policy development on the regulation of for-profit colleges, the future of the Pell Grant program and degree completion rates across all sectors of higher education.

"Although the proportion of Americans with a four-year degree is at an all-time high, we're not improving fast enough to keep pace with the country's demands," he said. "It's estimated that by 2018, we'll be short about three million college-educated workers."

And there are significant gaps between traditionally underserved students and their peers.

"By age 24, you're seven times more likely to have earned a bachelor's degree if your parents are wealthy than if they are poor," he said. "And the gap in college attainment between white students and students of color is actually bigger now than it was in the 1970s."

Our nation enrolls 49 million students in its K-12 public schools — 22 million of whom come from low-income families and 20 million of whom are black, Latino or American Indian.

"We must better serve all of our students, including the traditionally underserved, if we are to once again lead the world in educational attainment and fulfill our twin promises of opportunity and social mobility for all those that work hard and play by the rules," Cruz said.

There are, unquestionably, challenges ahead. But Cruz's experience as a teacher-scholar, department chair, dean and vice president at the University of Puerto Rico, and the lessons learned at The Education Trust and as the director of the national Access to Success Initiative suggests to him that Cal State Fullerton is poised to lead.

"Our institution is well-positioned to become a national model comprehensive university," he said. "We are in the final stages of a universitywide conversation — the development of a five-year strategic plan — that will help us organize our work to bridge the gap between our current reality and our very ambitious aspirations."

The father of five and grandfather of two is looking forward to having his family join him in Southern California once the school year is complete.

In the meantime, he continues to cultivate relationships with members of the campus community, develop operational plans and build the foundation for the work ahead.

"To those who doubt that public institutions can expand access, improve quality, increase degree completion rates and keep costs affordable, I say 'Come to Cal State Fullerton. We'll show you the way.'"

By: Valerie Orleans, 657-278-4540

Tags:  Campus Updates