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A recent Times editorial offers a misleading and sensationalized take on appropriate and prudent fiscal practices maintained by the California State University. It is especially disappointing, given that full and accurate information is so readily available.

Citing a recent audit report that mischaracterizes the nature and reporting of the CSU’s reserve funds, the editorial claims CSU has “hidden money” by “shifting funds into undisclosed accounts,” and has shown a “lack of interest” in providing pathways for community college students seeking a bachelor’s degree. These claims mislead the paper's readership and the people of California.

The monies at issue — CSU’s designated reserve funds — are established for three primary and critical functions: to meet short-term financial obligations, e.g., to advance money to students at the beginning of each term to ensure that their financial aid packages are complete; to fund capital projects, e.g., to repair or replace aging campus facilities; and to maintain operations in the event of a recession.

Anything but “hidden,” these funds are visible in state trust accounts that have consistently been disclosed to state officials, students and the people of California in dozens of public documents and presentations.

The documents are a wealth of information that can be reviewed here. Included are externally audited financial statements. CSU is one of the few state agencies that publish independently-audited statements.

California State University has long maintained a financial transparency page on its public website. Detailed information about the designated reserve funds can be found with one mouse click. Interestingly, and clearly refuting the editorial’s claims, the information from the transparency page was cited by the Public Policy Institute in a recent article titled “CSU’s Prudent Saving Strategy,” which praised CSU for its reserve policy and fiscal transparency, calling it “very good news for long-term planning” and “a good example for the state’s other higher education institutions.”

Our reserve policy was also covered in great detail at our public, September 2017 trustees meeting, attended by then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislative staff, CSU students and faculty leaders and news media. A video of the meeting is archived at the CSU’s public website for all to view here.

Even a casual review of the information above shows CSU has been transparent to all its stakeholders regarding its designated reserve funds. To claim they are “secret” or “undisclosed” is simply irresponsible. To the contrary, it shows CSU to be a careful steward of the money with which it is entrusted. Even the audit report acknowledges that we have appropriately safeguarded public funds.

We have been granted a public legislative hearing on this matter on Aug. 12. I look forward to presenting all of this information so the people of California can reach their own conclusions based on an accurate and complete representation of the facts.

The editorial also noted that “our nation’s demand for educated and trained workers will not diminish, and if America is to remain competitive in global markets, we will need all the college graduates we can get.”

On this point, we can agree. That’s why we work closely with the California Community Colleges to create and facilitate pathways for transfer students, including those from Allan Hancock College. One such pathway is the Associate Degree for Transfer program, which enables community college transfer students to earn their bachelor’s degree with only 120 units.

Transfer students are, and will continue to be, a key priority for CSU. In fact, more than 86,200 transfer students were admitted in fall 2018 — including 547 from Allan Hancock.

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Timothy P. White is chancellor of California State University.

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