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President García Speaks on OC Forum Panel

Community Indicators Report Focus of Discussion

April 25, 2014

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CSUF President Mildred García makes a point during the April 24 OC Forum discussion on community indicators.

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President Mildred A. García was one of three panelists who addressed a crowd of Orange County leaders and business professionals at the April 24 Orange County Forum luncheon. Panelists discussed the 2014 Orange County Indicators Report and how it affects different areas of the county.
Joining García were panelists Aaron Kushner, publisher of the Orange County Register, and Steve PonTell, president of the La Jolla Institute, a nonprofit think tank. The moderator was Hugh Hewitt, broadcast journalist, author and attorney.
Each year, the Orange County Forum publishes a "report card" based on information gathered through a survey that assesses Orange County's economic growth, as well as its ability to maintain its quality of life.
In response to a question about Orange County's future, García noted that she thought there was good news for Orange County residents as it pertains to Cal State Fullerton.
"Leaders in the community will be happy to know that the number of students graduating from high school is up, the number of students graduating from college is up, and more students are studying in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields," she said.
She also noted that there are still critical needs in ensuring that young Latinos and Latinas receive the education they need to move forward.
"The demographics of Orange County are changing," she said. "The population of the County is more diverse and represents multiple cultures. The effort to help ensure success for Orange County begins and ends with ensuring that children from every neighborhood, community and city in our county have equal access to quality K-12 schools and higher education, and that the diversity of our schools and universities reflects the diversity of our region."
She also pointed out that while Latino students make up 41 percent of all high school graduates, only 27 percent are University of California/California State University eligible.
"For Orange County, an economy whose growth depends on knowledge-based innovation, this gulf between Latino students and the jobs of the future is not good news."
However, Cal State Fullerton's five-year strategic plan, addresses many of the issues cited in the Orange County Forum report, she explained.

"We have a goal of reducing, by at least half, the 12 percent achievement gap that currently exists between underrepresented and non-underrepresented students," García said. "We are paying attention to the gaps. We are working hard to prepare the next generation of teachers, particularly in STEM areas, to reach out to young children.

"We also are collaborating and working with the business community, community colleges and other partners so that all students are ready for college-level work and can pursue professional employment upon graduation. We are engaged in developing and promoting high-impact practices to keep students engaged and on the track to graduation. Cal State Fullerton provides for the public good, not just the private good."
But, as she pointed out, that's not always easy. With more funding directed toward prisons than education, García reminded those present that a university education provides a solution to many of the problems we face.
"Cal State Fullerton has sustained $40 million in budget cuts, while the number of students we serve grows," she said. "We have had to turn away 25,000 qualified students. We broke our promise to these students. We told them if they took certain classes and passed, they would be able to enroll in our colleges. The Master Plan we developed decades ago in California is broken. We need to continue to push on our priorities to educate the students of our county and state."
Yet even with these realities, García was quick to note that Cal State Fullerton is ranked No. 1 in California and eighth in the nation among top colleges and universities awarding degrees to Hispanics.
The other panelists encouraged the crowd of business leaders to get behind supporting public universities.
"There is a culture that believes public universities receive the bulk of their funding from Sacramento," Kushner said. "That's not true. [CSUs receive 38 percent of their funding from the state.] It's up to all of us to support public higher education."  

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