Streamers shot into the air and graduates and their families and friends celebrated Cal State San Bernardino’s Class of 2024, cheering not only their academic accomplishments, but also the value of the college degrees they had earned.

More than 3,100 students from both the San Bernardino and Palm Desert campuses registered for the spring Commencement exercises that took place over five ceremonies on May 17-18 at the Toyota Arena in Ontario.

In addition to recognizing those who were the first in their families to earn a college degree, as well as family, friends and university faculty and staff who supported all of them through their academic journey, university President Tomás D. Morales took a few moments to remind graduates of the value of their degrees, as well as the path traveled by the many CSUSB alumni before them.

While a college education has come into question by critics – that many young people don’t need one, or that a degree doesn’t have the value as it once did in the past, or that one is not needed to move into the middle class – Morales said such ideas are false “because a college degree still carries with it both an individual good and a societal or social good.”

Citing a study by the Pew Research Center, Morales said, “The gap between those with a college degree and those without has widened over time. In addition, they report that, ‘The unemployment rate is lower for college graduates … and that gap widened as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.’”

A female graduate celebrates at the CSBS Commencement ceremony on May 17.

College graduates are also “healthier, live longer, vote at higher rate – a key requirement to maintain a healthy democracy – and are more civically engaged in general,” Morales said. “In fact, one study from this January stated that ‘each additional year of education reduces risk of death by about 2%. The benefits of an 18-year education are comparable to eating enough vegetables in your diet.’  This doesn’t mean you can stop eating your vegetables, though!”

Moreover, that leads to the ability of college degree holders to “help build stronger, healthier, more vibrant and sustainable communities,” he said. “Your impact, as new degree holders, is creating a marked and structural difference right here in the Inland Empire.”

Morales called it unacceptable that one of California’s most populous regions, the Inland Empire, has one of the lowest college-going rates in the state – unacceptable given the growing demands for a skilled and educated workforce to meet demands of employers and of a growing economy.

“As the organization Growing Inland Achievement tells us, ‘projected workforce demands for Inland students with baccalaureate degrees will outweigh our labor supply by two times in the next few years,’” he said. “We know that attracting entrepreneurs and businesses who are looking for educated employees depends on having an educated workforce available in the region.”

Morales also reminded the new graduates that others have gone on from CSUSB before them, making an impact in their chosen fields and defining the future where they live, including in the Inland Empire.

A male graduate celebrates at the CSBS Commencement ceremony on May 17

The Class of 2024 added to the current roster of 124,609 CSUSB alumni, 4,000 of whom live in 109 different countries, just under 100,000 make their home in California and 82,000  live in the Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside counties. To underscore the difference they are making in their communities, Morales said 30 percent work in private industry or business, 20 percent in state or local government, 20 percent in elementary or secondary education and 10 percent in postsecondary education.

“As you can see, your fellow Coyote alumni are indeed defining the future, wherever they now live. And especially right here in the IE and in our state of California,” Morales said.

And honored during Commencement weekend with honorary doctorates were two   distinguished alumni : philanthropist and 2024 Distinguished Alumna Ellen G. Weisser and California public servant Respondia “Dia” S. Poole.

And getting support from Morales and the audience was Abi Carter, a psychology major from the Class of 2023 at the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, who was a Top 3 finalist on the TV show “American Idol.” On May 19, a day after Commencement exercises concluded, Carter won the show’s top prize in the talent competition.

“I know that you, like these alumni, will be building fulfilling lives, that encompass community, giving back and setting and achieving personal goals. Just like you have here,” Morales said. “Now, go out and pursue the future, which is not only yours but also the future for those around you.  Participate, engage and support the marvelous diversity that enriches our nation.”

Recordings of each Commencement ceremony are available online:

The CSBS Commencement ceremony at Toyota Arena on May 17.