During the 16th annual Super Sunday event on Feb. 28, California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro and CSUN President Erika D. Beck delivered an empowering message to congregants of the H.O.P.E.’s House Christian Ministries in Granada Hills: College is doable, affordable and life-changing.
For more than a decade, the CSU, in partnership with nearly 100 churches in California serving predominantly African American congregations, has hosted Super Sunday in efforts to increase the preparation, retention and graduation of African American students.
As Chancellor Castro and President Beck addressed this year’s virtual audience in pre-recorded messages live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook, they emphasized the value of a college education and its achievability.
Beck shared that nearly two-thirds of all job openings will require a college degree and how that number will only increase over time. In addition to more job opportunities, college graduates typically earn $1 million dollars more in their lifetime than people who only have a high school diploma, and are less likely to be unemployed.
On a personal note, Beck talked about the importance of education in her own life, sharing how her grandmother came to the United States from Norway and worked to obtain a graduate degree.
“Her example has inspired me throughout my life and also put me on the path to a career grounded in equity, inclusion and the pursuit of racial justice,” said Beck. “I firmly believe that higher education and a university degree are the keys to achieving our goal for a more equitable and just society.”
Castro also shared his personal story. “I am the grandson of a dreamer from Mexico; I am the son of farmworkers; I am the first in my family to graduate from college, raised by grandparents and my single mother who worked very hard to give me the opportunities they didn’t have,” said Castro. “Higher education transformed my life. I assure you that no matter your circumstances, the CSU is within your reach. It is affordable, and it will change your life.”
Beck went on to explain that the CSU system provides many avenues for student success, one of which is financial aid. When it comes to affordability, the CSU system provides an abundance of financial support to its students, reducing the worry of cost and redirecting the focus on building a brighter future. Eighty-four percent of CSU students receive financial aid and with three-quarters of those students having the full cost of their tuition covered, most CSU students graduate debt-free.
“Don’t ever let finances be the obstacle that holds you back,” said Beck, “the CSU can make it work for you.”
Beck also highlighted Graduation Initiative 2025 as another example of the CSU’s commitment to student success. The initiative, which was launched in 2015, aims to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps by 2025. “Matadors Rising,” CSUN’s version of the statewide initiative, shows that the percentages of first-time freshmen who are graduating within four and six years — for both traditionally underserved and better-served groups — have gone up across the board, as have the percentages of first-time transfer students who graduate within two and four years.
A global pandemic did not halt this mission. CSUN was successfully able to transition to online learning, move a full range of campus resources to a virtual platform and keep as many students as possible on track to earning their degree, fulfilling the promise that all students have the opportunity to graduate in a timely manner.
In closing her remarks, Beck left attendees with a message of hope and encouragement.
“Whatever your circumstances, we are here to help you, your children, your grandchildren and all of us reach a brighter future,” said Beck.