The California State University System has launched a new initiative aimed at doubling the graduation rate, setting much higher expectations for the years to come.
By 2025, the California State University system hopes 40 percent of its freshmen will graduate in four years, more than double the current rate of 19 percent. The initiative also aims to have 45 percent of transfer students graduate in two years, an increase from the current rate of 31 percent.
By contrast, the UC system has a four-year graduation rate of more than 50 percent and hopes to increase it as close to 100 percent as possible. According to a representative in admissions from University of California Irvine, the four-year graduation rate is 70 percent, while the six-year rate is 88 percent.
California State University System officials told the LA Times that part of the reason the graduation rate for four years is low is because many of their students are older working adults who can only attend the school part time. That's why a more accurate measure of student progress would also include the six-year graduation rate.
According to the initiative, "winning strategies" to increase the graduation rate include expanding practices like undergraduate research, service learning, internships and study abroad. All of these are meant to foster student engagement and lead to greater student success and persistence rates. The schools also plan to redesign courses to incorporate technology and improve content retention, especially in classes with historically high failure rates.
They also plan to expand the Associate Degree for Transfer program to ensure that students can enter the university better-prepared and ready to complete the remaining 60 credits needed to fulfill degree requirements.
Encouraging students to achieve a degree in four years would also save money on tuition and books.
The vast difference in graduation rates between the University of California system and CSU schools is thanks to resources that encourage minorities and first-generation students to stay on the graduation path, UC Irvine Admissions representative Anthony Le said.
"We have this office called SOAR, it is the Student Outreach and Retention Office. They focus on a lot of outreach to get students to come to UCI and keep our students here as well," he said.
The SOAR program also helps students who are undocumented and helps ease the burdens that other colleges may have.
"We also have a mentorship program called AMP for first year students who are usually first generation college students. A first year student would join the program as a mentee and receive a mentor. Things like that really help our students stay at UCI. They learn the ways around campus and all the different resources that we have," Le said.
CSU student Kenneth Domino has not noticed the same initiative by students on his campus.
"They have a lot of resources for students to use to graduate quicker. Personally, I haven't used many of these resources because I haven't had the need to," he said. While the resources exist, the "execution of the students that is lacking."
The new CSU initiative states that "Hiring more tenure-track faculty and academic advisors to support student success" could be one of the key strategies to help keep students on track. Expanding the resources available to students at the Cal State system could also be one of the driving factors to increase the retention rate.
With the increase in campus outreach, officials hope students in the Cal State system will be on the right path to graduate on time.