By Dixie Reid
Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen delivered a generally optimistic 2021 Spring Address on Thursday, Jan. 21, despite the challenges the University, Sacramento communities and the nation at large continue to face.
He touched on COVID testing for students returning to campus this semester, the plan to deliver the COVID vaccine to students and employees, and the state of the University’s budget. He also shared exciting news about Sac State’s “On the Rise” fundraising campaign.
His theme was “what we know, what we anticipate, and what we think it means for Sacramento State.”
Nelsen spoke virtually to the Sac State community and friends of the University from his on-campus office.
The speech was one of Nelsen’s most personal, as he referenced the songs of Bruce Springsteen and touched on his own college days when he worked part time as a campus custodian.
Among the high points of the President’s 2021 Spring Address:
COVID testing on students living in the residence halls will begin Sunday, Jan. 24, followed by a “modified quarantine” and a second round of testing 10 days later. Flu shots also will be provided to students.
Sacramento County Public Health has approved Sac State as a coronavirus vaccination site. Once University receives the vaccine — which will be stored in freezers in the Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex — plans are for a walk-in clinic in the University Union to vaccinate students, faculty, and staff. If needed, the University is prepared to host a drive-through clinic in Parking Structure 3. Nursing faculty and students and other campus healthcare professionals will administer the vaccine.
The first shipment of vaccine doses is expected as early as this week. Vaccination of Nursing students and healthcare staff could begin next week, Nelsen said.
Anyone with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine or testing may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nelsen said that 460 class sections will meet face-to-face during the spring semester, meaning that about 7% of the student population will be in the classroom.
Relative to an improving, yet still-challenging budget picture, Nelsen pointed to Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed a 3% restoration of the University’s general operating budget for this year, a step forward after last year when Sac State suffered a $10.7 million budget cut last year. This year's partial restoration returns $6.69 million to the University's budget, leaving Sac State with $4.1 million less than in 2019.
The CSU Chancellor’s Office has allocated 6% of the restored budget to general operating costs for the 23 campuses.
CSU is distributing among the 23 campuses $175 million for deferred maintenance, $30 million for emergency student grants, and $10 million for professional development.
Nelsen said he does not expect employee layoffs nor a hiring freeze, but promised a hiring “frost” for the time being.
Spring enrollment is down by 650 students, which is troubling, Nelsen said. He added that the decline could be due to hardships caused by the pandemic.
Students will receive more financial assistance, he announced, pointing to the new Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, a part of the CARES Act. It will provide $17.867 million for direct distribution with fewer restrictions tied to the funding than the equal amount Sac State received last fall. This time, DACA students also can receive the money. Distribution is planned for late February.
Sac State will receive an additional $42 million in what is called HEERF II funding to defray costs associated with COVID-19, including faculty and staff training. It also will allow the University to invest in student-support activities, classroom upgrades, distance-learning transitions, safety equipment, and additional computers and hot spots.
On Tuesday, March 16, the University will publicly announce the latest news about its fundraising campaign, “On the Rise: The Campaign for Sacramento State.” The University has a goal to raise $225 million by 2023, which will allow for double the number of student scholarships, increase endowments for faculty development and student research, and allow Sac State to continue to deliver on its promise to be an inclusive and antiracist campus.
“What we do here at Sacramento State has significance everywhere,” Nelsen said. “Every dollar we invest in Sacramento State makes a difference. Together, we will rise.”