Sunday, Feb. 26 marked the seventh anniversary of the California State University’s “Super Sunday” initiative aimed at increasing college enrollment among African American students. Across the state, CSU presidents and administrators visited African American churches to share the importance of a college education. In Oceanside, President Haynes and Associate Vice President for Diversity and Educational Equity Derrick Crawford spoke to the congregation of St. John Missionary Baptist Church. In Temecula, Vice President for Student Affairs Eloise Stiglitz and Director of the Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services Geoff Gilmore addressed parishioners at Mountain View Community Church. Although Super Sunday is held every year, this year’s message came at an especially crucial moment.

The demand for college graduates is at an all-time high. A recent Labor Department study shows that unemployment for college graduates is around 4 percent; the rate for employees with only a high school diploma or less is more three times as high, at 13 percent. And by 2030, 67 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education and training. Yet, at the current rate, California will be one million persons short of filling this demand. Even more disheartening is that fewer than 25 percent of historically underserved students in our region are college eligible.

“If our region is to prosper and take a leadership role in this knowledge-based economy, we must ensure that more students are prepared, that they obtain the best possible education beyond high school,” said President Haynes. “Today’s global marketplace demands a highly educated, diverse workforce, and it is critical that public universities in California work toward meeting this demand.”

Cal State San Marcos has long realized that part of the challenge in reaching underserved student populations is the lack of collaboration between the K-12 system and universities. To that end, in 2006, the University began working with area school districts, homes for foster youth, and native tribes to guarantee admission to students who meet CSU entrance requirements. The University currently has nine such agreements. CSUSM faculty and staff work closely with area teachers to develop a clear path to college for students, mapping out a timeline for required courses and application deadlines. The results are encouraging. So far, 1,200 students have been admitted to CSUSM. They are coming ready for college and fully aware of what it will take for them to succeed.

At the same time, CSUSM is strengthening its recruiting efforts. Half of CSUSM undergraduates are first-generation students, and nearly 45 percent of all students identify as African American, Asian, Hispanic or Native American. Once these students get on campus, the University is focused on keeping them here through small learning communities and a team of advisors who answer student questions and point them and their families toward appropriate university resources.

“I firmly believe that African American students — and all students — deserve a high quality of life and economic security,” commented President Haynes. “On Super Sunday, we helped some of our region’s students understand that their hopes and dreams are best realized through education, and that the CSU system remains one of their most affordable options. The more students we can encourage to attend college, the better off our entire region will be.”

“If our region is to prosper and take a leadership role in this knowledge-based economy, we must ensure that more students are prepared, that they obtain the best possible education beyond high school,” said President Haynes.