The plan to raise one system's 19% graduation rate

'I am committed to student success,' says state senator who made the proposal

In an effort to boost four-year graduation rates at California State University (CSU) campuses, state legislators are considering a bill that would reward students for taking 15 credits per semester.

The bill, introduced by former CSU trustee Sen. Steve Glazer (D), draws from pilot programs running at four of the 23 campuses and would give participating students: priority registration, additional academic advising, frozen tuition, and tuition waivers for required courses that are not offered in the students' first four years.

Currently, only about 19% of CSU students who began as full-time freshmen graduate within four years, compared with the national public university rate of 34%. Just two CSU campuses have graduation rates above the national average. Chancellor Timothy White last year recommended improving the four-year freshman graduation rate to 24% and the six-year rate to 60%.

How to finish in four: Supporting on-time graduation for low-income students

System officials say the low rates reflect their nontraditional student population, which is largely made up of adult learners who enroll part time. Six-year graduation rates are a better way to measure completion, they say. But Glazer and others argue that the shorter the time to degree, the less expensive the degree.

Glazer's argument is that the process would benefit all CSU students because as students graduate, spaces in required courses would free up. 

"I am committed to student success whether that means achieving it in the traditional four-year period or with extra years of work," Glazer said.

He also promised to secure any necessary funding. However, Glazer says it's unlikely that much more money will be necessary, as no extra faculty or staff were hired for the current pilot programs.

CSU officials are looking over the bill and determining what expenses might accompany it. The notion of freezing tuition could face some pushback as it could reduce revenue and competes against a long-range financial plan that ties annual tuition increases to inflation (Song, Los Angeles Times, 2/22).

Areas of expertise

Student Retention and Success

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