Celebrating the end of 2020 has a unique energy, given the series of catastrophes that have haunted us world-wide, nationally and statewide. Disease, racial injustice, climate change with resulting wild fires, and economic instability have all been at the center of our concerns for at least the past 10 months.
Despite the difficulties, and they are so very real and heartbreaking, Cal State Long Beach had a very good year along many dimensions. I celebrate them now as a tribute to our campus community of dedicated faculty, staff, students, alumni, friends and administrators.
I always take national rankings with a “grain of salt,” but was pleased to be recognized for the role we play in accelerating the social mobility of our students — ranking nationally No. 1 from one poll and No. 4 from another. I was also pleased to see us in the top 10 nationally for our diversity, affordability, and the role we play in transforming students’ lives.
We also achieved new highs in removing barriers to timely graduation. Our latest data illustrate that the four-year graduation rate for first-time freshman has increased from 16% to 37.6% in the past five years. And we have achieved a 73% graduation rate between 4.5 and 6 years. The graduation rate for our student athletes is 91%. We can still do better, but we are confident we’ll reach our Graduation Initiative goals by 2025.
Despite the health and financial concerns that accompanied our fall 2020 semester, we enrolled a record number of students, 39,300. Our students have needed additional help this year and we’ve been blessed with generous donations to our Basic Needs program, which feeds more than 200 students per week and facilitates the rapid re-housing of students experiencing housing insecurity. Between federal pandemic relief money and private philanthropy, we’ve been able to provide financial support to more than 30,000 students this year. While the need remains very great, we are most grateful for the support of our alumni and friends. In fact, 2020 was a record year for philanthropy, with $39 million in gifts and donations funding new endowed chairs, scholarships, student services and research centers.
Reflecting back on 2020, it is also appropriate to celebrate the creativity and generosity of our faculty and staff. Professors were suddenly required to deliver courses remotely with only a few days to prepare. All have risen to the occasion while many have truly excelled. This is equally true of our staff members who pivoted to remote delivery of services for students and employees. In student services this includes admissions, advising, tutoring, counseling, exercise/wellness, and student organizational meetings and activities. Human Resources has capably moved hiring and onboarding to online formats and implemented many new pandemic-related pay policies, while Police Services and Beach Building Services have kept our campus safe and operational throughout this difficult time.
Faculty also earned prestigious fellowships, awards, major external grants and other national recognitions. Our students have been nationally ranked in business, design, biology, honors program, music, rocketry, trivia and moot court competitions. I am surrounded by quite a collection of winners and strivers.
We welcomed a new dean for our College of the Arts, Dr. Robin Bargar, and a new Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Beth Lesen. Challenging times to begin new assignments, to be sure, but both are thriving.
We have much work to do as we contemplate 2021 and beyond. I’m excited that we’re planning for a primarily face-to-face fall 2021 semester with, of course, necessary health and safety precautions in place. I’m determined to continue our work to dismantle systemic racism on our campus and look forward to The Beach being a model for equity and excellence.
Best wishes to all for all the holidays that are being celebrated over the next few weeks. Everyone at Long Beach State wishes you all the best for the New Year. 2021, here we come.