Timothy White, who took the role of chancellor of the California State University system at the beginning of the year, visited its youngest campus for the first time on April 18.
At a news conference at CSU Channel Islands in Camarillo, White said the Ventura County campus — which is the sixth of the 23 campus he’s visited since his tenure began — is quickly becoming one of the system’s success stories. The school opened in 2002 as the only public four-year university in Ventura County.
“It’s actually stunning to see [CSUCI]’s transformation. To see what’s happened in 10 years … it may seem like a glacial pace to the outside world, but for higher education, 10 years is quite remarkable,” White said at the conference. “This will be one of the jewels of the Cal State system. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Channel Islands has been one of the only campuses in the CSU organization to expand its student body during and after the Great Recession, a statistic that’s partly due to the fact that officials wanted to fill out the young campus. In 2012, the university had 4,920 undergraduate and graduate students, and since its establishment, it has awarded 7,000 degrees.
The university’s growth came as the state government cut budgets across public universities. For the 2013-14 school year, the government has proposed a $125 million bump in the CSU system’s budget, money that would go to freezing tuition, expanding the number of students admitted to the universities and raising faculty salaries, among other areas.
White said CSUCI has had an impact on the surrounding Ventura County community since it opened its doors 11 years ago. That’s partly due to the CSU system’s support of the young campus, but also because the private sector in Ventura County has stepped up to support the school financially and through employment opportunities for its students and graduates.
“I think the days of the university being over there and having a moat around it is no longer possible,” White said. “We cannot run this system and university without a public-private partnership … especially for a young campus like this that needs to grow dramatically.”
The Tri-Counties are home to another CSU university, Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. That school is known for its well-regarded architecture and engineering program.
One out of every 10 employees in California is a CSU graduate, White said.
“If we wait [for the public to pay for the university], that will never happen … We need to harvest this relationship and engage in public-private relationship,” he said. “It can’t be state-only, student-only.”
White said the only possible third avenue for financial support, aside from the state government and student tuition, is the private sector. In Ventura County, he said, businesses are starting to recognize that investments in CSUCI are investments in the region’s economic future.