California Governor Gavin Newsom and the State Legislature have agreed on a new state budget with a historic $458 million investment in Humboldt State University’s effort to become Northern California’s first polytechnic institution.
The new funds will fast-track the launch of as many as 10 new academic programs by Fall 2023. Additional programs will follow that, primarily in engineering, technology, and applied sciences. Student enrollment is expected to grow quickly.
The investment includes $433 million in one-time investment for new academic facilities, building renovations, upgrades to lab spaces, additional student housing, technology throughout the curriculum, expanded broadband, and investments in renewable energy research capacity. There is $25 million in ongoing funds for new academic and student support programs. Both the one-time investments and ongoing funding will be leveraged to help HSU eliminate equity gaps and raise graduation rates to meet the goals of CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025.
The new funding will also have a major impact on the North Coast economy, potentially revitalizing it for decades to come.
Humboldt State is already the largest employer in the area and has an estimated annual economic impact of $459 million. The new funding could eventually double the institution’s size, with new faculty and staff along with the increase in students. New construction will add hundreds of jobs. Current industries will have a broader talent pool along with graduates from new fields, while new businesses will likely want to take advantage of being located near a polytechnic. HSU’s outstanding relationship with the College of the Redwoods will further provide opportunities for student success while energizing economic development.
“This historic investment will be transformational for our institution, and it will revitalize this region for decades into the future,” said HSU President Tom Jackson, Jr.
“HSU will do everything we can to be deliberate, respectful, responsible, and forthright as we accept the investment by the people of California in this incredible university and this amazing region. This is our moment. This is our time as a campus and community to become the place we have always envisioned.”
President Jackson also thanked a broad range of individuals who have supported the effort, including CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro, Governor Gavin Newsom, and state legislators.
Support for designating Humboldt State a polytechnic was spurred by strong demand statewide for the programs and hands-on experiences offered by polytechnic schools. The two other polytechnic universities in the CSU—at San Luis Obispo and Pomona—are in high demand, and a third polytechnic would improve opportunities for students.
Humboldt State is well-positioned to meet the student interest. It already functions much like a polytechnic, with a significant focus on hands-on learning and a broad array of programs in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, math). In fact, HSU has the third highest proportion of STEM students in the CSU, and is first in the CSU for STEM students who go on to earn doctoral degrees.
Humboldt State’s vision and plans for becoming a polytechnic were developed over the course of the last year. It involved discussions and planning by hundreds of community members, alumni, staff, students, and faculty.
“Our self-study focused on principles we value at HSU like inclusivity, access, sustainability, and student success,” said Jenn Capps, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “The engagement and commitment by our campus community in our self-study process has been unprecedented and is a reflection of what we are truly capable of as an institution when faculty, staff, students and administration work together toward a common purpose.”
Emerging from the planning process was a concept for a 21st century polytechnic that builds on Humboldt State’s strong foundation in the liberal arts and long-standing commitment to sustainability and social justice. It will infuse areas such as traditional ecological knowledge and renewable energy. At the same time, the university will maintain its commitment to access and equity. The student body is highly diverse, and among STEM majors 56% are women and 40% are from underrepresented ethnic groups, which is well above national averages.
To be formally designated a polytechnic, HSU must receive approval from the CSU Board of Trustees. It is moving quickly in developing its proposal, with an initial draft nearly ready for review by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. A formal submission is expected this fall, and a decision by the Board of Trustees is expected in Spring 2022.
Note: This story was originally published on July 13, 2021.