Graphic by Kevin Black.

Cal Poly leads the California State University (CSU) system with 74 percent of students graduating within six years. Provost Robert Koob predicted these rates will continue to rise despite the poor economic environment in California.

Additionally, the freshman retention rate (which measures the amount of Cal Poly students who return for their sophomore year and, Koob said, is strongly influential in graduation rates) from 2008-2009 was at a record high.

Of the 3,011 freshmen who enrolled at Cal Poly in 2003, 2,288 graduated within six years, according to a press release from the provost’s office. The standard for higher education graduation rates nationwide is measured by six- and four-year rates, according to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which operates under the National Center of Educational Statistics.

Of the 3,575 students who came to Cal Poly in 2005, more than 30 percent (1,073) graduated within four years. This percentage is up from a 15 percent four-year graduation rate 10 years ago.

Koob attributed Cal Poly’s graduation rate to the high-quality students and faculty who care about education, orientation and residential housing programs. These programs are crucial to creating an environment that make students feel comfortable and enables them to succeed. Koob’s goal is to increase the six-year graduation rate 6 percentage points to 80 in the next four years.

Koob plans to raise the rate in part by maintaining and raising an already high freshman retention rate. Students returning that first year is key because of high dropout rates at that time.  In 2008, 3, 450 freshmen enrolled at Cal Poly and 91.4 percent returned as sophomores; it is the highest this rate has been in Cal Poly’s history.

Koob said he does not think the current budget deficit will affect the graduation rates or freshmen return rates.

“The standards haven’t changed; it’s our enforcement that seems to be changing,” he said.

In fact, Koob said it should help students who can’t graduate on time figure out early and decide on other plans. This might translate to higher graduation rates.

“The graduation (rate) will go up because the budget crisis will force us to be more selective,” he said. “We’ve gotten so much better information about what each student needs to take when.”

Carole Moore, program coordinator for Career Services and a career counselor, said there was significantly more freedom to take classes when she was a Cal Poly student.

“There was no hurry,” Moore said. “We don’t have that luxury now.”

Moore said that Cal Poly still has an approach that fosters student and faculty relationships. Job fairs, orientations and networking all add to the Cal Poly experience, she said.

“I think that Cal Poly, as opposed to other schools, has a close relationship with its students,” she said. “My guess, just being here on campus, is the personal approach we take to education.”

“There are a lot of really lasting relationships,” Moore added.

Moore said the fact that Cal Poly makes newly admitted students declare a major upon applying to the university can be difficult for students if they want to switch, but it could help the graduation rate. Students like it here, she said, and rarely want to leave, even if the school doesn’t have a desired major.

“I meet with students constantly about changing their major,” she said. “One question we ask is it a major we offer at Cal Poly. Almost always the answer is, ‘I want to stay at Cal Poly.’”

Cindee Bennett-Thompson, the associate director of admissions, said the declaration of a major is key to retaining students and having them graduate.

“One of the biggest reasons for (high graduation rates) is students are required to declare a major when they apply,” Bennett-Thompson said. “Once they’re here, they know they want to be here.”

All these factors lead to Cal Poly having the highest graduation rate in the CSU system. For instance, CSU Long Beach has a 54 percent graduation rate over a six-year period, according to their Web site.

The University of California system generally has higher graduation rates. For instance, UC Santa Barbara has a 61 percent rate in four years and 79 percent in six, according to their Web site.

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  1. Where can we see this data? I am curious to see if the class of 2005 was an anomaly or if there has been a trend of more students graduating within 4 years. If you could provide your source for this data, so I could look into this, I would really appreciate it! Thanks,


  2. Can some one please point me toward where I can see this data? This is a very interesting topic to me and I would like to learn more!



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