SAN MARCOS — Amid state budget and national acrimony and uncertainty, Cal State University at San Marcos is — and will continue to be — a beacon of hope, innovation and leadership in the community, University President Karen Haynes said Thursday in her annual address.
The university, three years away from its 30th anniversary, has reached new heights — the 2016-academic year saw the school reach a record 15,000 student enrollees and 38,000 alumni, and the school has continued its longstanding commitment to the region’s most vulnerable student populations.
But as Haynes said in her 45-minute address Thursday, uncertainty looms.
“Today we operate in increasingly uncertain and complex times,” Haynes said. “In California, we are facing a degree shortfall while state budget allocations continue to underfund our campus, resulting in constrained resources and turning qualified Californians away. Nationally, we have endured a shockingly coarse election cycle and across our country the support for public higher education is being questioned. Globally and locally, we have witnessed countless violent acts of hate and terrorism, leaving many of us wondering, is this becoming the new normal?”
Haynes said that this climate makes public education even more important, “not only as an engine for economic growth, but as a catalyst for spurring individuals to innovation and optimism, empathy and understanding.”
“Through higher education we assure that we will have individuals who bring new perspectives to whatever issues we may face, trained as critical thinkers with a multicultural framework,” Haynes said.
Haynes said that Cal State San Marcos will continue to maintain a positive outlook due to its collective innovation and determination.
“You know that we are disruptively and unapologetically breaking the mold of public higher education,” Haynes said. “While the outlook may appear bleak for some institutions, Cal State San Marcos continues to be ahead of the curve because, together, we imagine the possibilities.”
Addressing criticisms of public universities’ roles in ballooning student debt, Haynes said that the university — and other public universities — have the most student debt because they educate the most students. With that said, half of Cal State San Marcos students graduate with no debt and the average student carries about $13,000 debt, which is one third of the national average.
She also addressed the criticism that students in public universities take “too long” to graduate, arguing that many of the students have to work to care for family members, some are unprepared for college and others can’t find courses they need because of insufficient funding for those course sections.
Haynes, however, said that the university has worked tirelessly to eliminate the barriers so that students can graduate at a timely pace.
Haynes concluded her remarks by promising that the university will continue to break the mold and continue to be a beacon in the community, despite the stark outlook.
“Together, let’s debunk the myths and stand up for public higher education,” she said. “I know that the antidotes to the cynicism and fear of our day are right here: optimism, curiosity and innovation fueled by education, research and partnerships. Imagine how we can continue to redefine what higher education can be. Imagine a region fueled by the accelerated pace of this university. There is a passion that moves us. We are resilient and resourceful. We are creative and courageous.
“We are trendsetting and trailblazing. Today’s big, audacious dreams, with intention and determination, become tomorrow’s progress. If we can dream it, we can make it happen. Ahead of us lies anything we choose, constrained only by our ability to imagine the possibilities.”