Today, CSU, Bakersfield reached 10,000 students enrolled in the university for the first time in its 47-year history. That’s just about doubled from a decade ago. And we are receiving national recognition of just how valuable – how transformative – a CSU, Bakersfield education can be for each and every one of these 10,000 students.
Researchers affiliated with The Equality of Opportunity Project used big data technology to analyze millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records from 1999 to 2013 to compare the incomes of college graduates in their 30s from low-income families with those of their parents. Bakersfield ranked #3 in the country in propelling the move of its graduates from low-income to the middle class. According to the New York Times, “82% of our students who enrolled in the late 1990s and came from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution have ended up in the top three-fifths of the distribution.”
The big data numbers affirm what faculty regularly see in the lives of our students and graduates. As a new professor at CSU, Bakersfield in 2003, I heard the Dean declare “we save lives,” and it struck me as a fairly outrageous bit of hyperbole. But I have seen the transformation this university can make in the lives of individual students, and, over the next several months, we will feature some of their stories in Arts and Humanities Alive.
The morning after reading about CSU, Bakersfield as one of “America’s Great Working Class Colleges,” I boarded a 6 a.m. train to Sacramento to join other CSU leaders for a two-day training on Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders. It was fitting. In addition to the good news of economic mobility, the article also reports that according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state funding for education is down almost 20% per student since 2008.
And so an important part of my job is to partner with our university fundraising professionals and raise money to supplement the approximately 40% of our budget provided by the state for students’ to have the transformative experiences and develop the skills that, among other things, enable their move into middle class and beyond.
Our students are amazing. They are out in the community teaching philosophy to youth and their parents; starting a professional Public Relations firm to serve our community; sharing their history research with internationally renowned professors; introducing elementary school children to the magic of theatre – and the list goes on.
We are connecting the arts and humanities to everyday life.
Dr. Robert Frakes
Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities