Chancellor's Friday Letters


Chancellor White’s Friday Letter of November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012

Dear Friends,

Quite a week for me.

Since last Sunday, I’ve laid my head on four different pillows in hotels in four different zip codes.  I was very happy to get home last night!  My nomadic travels in the service of the university involved many conversations about higher education.  And the post-election calm gave me a chance to reflect a bit more deeply on the longer-term issues that confront us at UCR.

The needs, opportunities and challenges are much deeper and more complicated than I can possibly deal with here, but I invite you to consider three related questions:

  1. What are the human capital needs of the country?  How many people in America need to have college degrees and why?  What is UCR’s piece of this?
  2. What is it going to cost and, as a society, how are we going to finance this effort, including both decreasing the costs of delivery and increasing revenues?
  3. And who is best positioned to be responsible for the reforms, redesigns, and innovations necessary?

With respect to question 1 – our human capital needs – there is overwhelming evidence that college degrees advance both the individual and society…that a college education is both a private and a public good.  The innovations that drive our economy, social growth and vitality, national security, food safety and availability, and environmental sustainability, just to list a few, in the main emerge from colleges and universities.

The nation has set a goal that 60% of adults will possess a college degree by 2025. Today, America’s public colleges and universities grant approximately 1.04 million degrees per year.  To meet the nation’s goal, we need to increase the annual number of degrees awarded by 25%.  So, if UCR’s graduation rates stay constant, we need to increase our student body from today’s 21,000 to 26,500.  Growth should be combined with a complementary strategy of increased graduation rates and shorter time to degree.

With respect to question #2 – the cost – the current approach to financing higher education is unsustainable.  We need to find innovative ways to decrease the cost of educational delivery while sustaining robust learning experiences for students, and enriching the environment for faculty creativity.  Financing under the current model becomes even more problematic when you add the cost of supporting the growth needed to meet the nation’s ambitious goal of 60% of adults with degrees.

It seems unreasonable at best – and foolish at worst – to assume the tab will be the sole responsibility of taxpayers and/or students.  We must increase revenues from the transfer of intellectual property, creation of entrepreneurial programs, and develop a cost-saving approach to core business activities…like banding campuses further together to increase their purchasing power for goods and products. We must innovate our models of educational delivery to lower the cost of education while sustaining an enriched, interactive learning environment.  A much greater integration of technology into the learning environment seems both wise and inevitable.

In regards to question three – spearheading the reforms – faculty, staff and students are best positioned to define and execute the innovations.  Moreover, if higher education writ large doesn’t take hold of these realities, then someone else (e.g., the government) will do it for us (or perhaps to us).

This point was made effectively, and humorously, last Sunday evening by Robert Gates (former secretary of defense, former Texas A&M president and current president of William and Mary College) who was speaking at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities meeting in Denver.  He suggested that unless we contain costs, and increase graduation and completion rates, the government will get more involved. This outcome was to be avoided at all costs, he said, as based on his experiences government can be like a dinosaur: a heavy and large footprint, a small brain and lack of fine motor control.

I look forward to learning of your views on these important and interrelated matters.

With best wishes,


Tim White

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Once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Tuskegee Airmen tomorrow
Get ready for an afternoon at the Orbach Science Library to explore the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. This eighth annual event will include Red Tails pilots and crews from the World War II bombers they escorted, as well as stories of heroism and prejudice rarely shared.

Forging a new path
UC Riverside’s winter magazine focuses on the stories of our students who will be the first in their families to earn a college degree, and what got them inspired. Read this issue of the magazine online or on the iPad from the link below.

A matter of respect
Earlier this week we had a day off in honor of our men and women in the military. Another campus tradition is a military appreciation basketball game. Mark your calendars for 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22, when all military members with ID (active, reserved, retired, or dependent) are admitted to the game at no charge, and honored at center court at half time.

Keep up with the latest at UCR Today

What else is going on at UCR?  http://www.ucr.edu/happenings/

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