Methods for increasing graduation and retention rates among CSU students will include block-scheduling, early registration, roadmaps to graduation, degree audit and early-warning advising. Photo by Aimee Vasquez – Mustang Daily.

California State University (CSU) announced a graduation initiative last week that will attempt to raise the CSU’s graduation rate by at least 6 percent.  The initiative strives to cut the existing gap in degree attainment in half for underrepresented students across all 23 CSU campuses by the year 2016.

The average CSU six-year graduation rate is currently at 46 percent. The board wants to bring it up by 8 percent systemwide, which would put it in the top quartile of national averages for similar institutions. CSU campuses already in the top quartile will attempt to raise their averages by 6 percent.

Eric Fallis, spokesperson for the CSU Chancellor’s Office, said the initiative would also attempt to determine why the gaps exist.

“Graduation is important, and the fact is that too many students do not graduate,” Fallis said. “There are several reasons for this, and the initiative is going to look into those reasons.”

Fallis said one of the primary reasons students don’t finish college is they do not have a clear roadmap to their degree.

“The longer it takes to graduate, the more likely something in a student’s life will get in the way,” he said.

The goal is nothing new for Cal Poly Provost Robert Koob said Cal Poly responded to CSU pressure to raise graduation and retention rates a year ago.

“The CSU system is a bit behind us,” Koob said. “But we can always get better.”

Cal Poly currently has the highest CSU graduation rate, with 73.8 percent of its students graduating within six years.

The six-year rate is the most traditional standard to base graduation success, according to Cal Poly Director of Institutional Planning and Analysis Brent Goodman.

Cal Poly, however, has agreed to improve its six-year graduation rate by 8 percent by 2016,  and to raise underrepresented students’ graduation rates by 13 percent.

Each CSU will have the  opportunity to develop its own method of raising graduation and retention rates, based on size, demographics, academic programs and available resources. Graduation data for all 23 campuses is posted on the California State University Web site.

CSU methods for increasing graduation and retention rates include summer bridge programs, guides to graduation, degree audits and early-warning advising. Some of Cal Poly’s methods have included block-scheduling, early registration and prioritizing seniors in registration.

Ian Muir, a biological sciences and material engineering senior, said the initiative has been a double-edged sword.

“Cal Poly is a business; (it’s) very much about a turn-over,” Muir said. “They are all about making you successful and getting you out of here as quickly as possible.”

Muir said as a double major was particularly difficult.

“You’re sort of pushed out the door,” he said.

Muir said the “super-senior letter,” the message that notified high-unit students of their priority registration, was a good thing.

“It’s been kind of awesome. I’m in shock. I wasn’t sure how I was gonna do it before I got that message,” he said.

The initiative attempts to comply with Obama Administration goals, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in a press release.

“The Obama Administration has set a goal for the United States to be the leader in college degree holders by the year 2020,” Reed said. “We cannot reach this national goal without the CSU increasing the number of students that we graduate each year.”

The Board of Trustess is expected to receive an update on the graduation initiative at its next meeting in March.

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