CSU Chancellor Aims to Close Achievement Gap by Improving Graduation Rates


Image courtesy of California State University.

In response to state pressure to increase the percentage of students graduating in four years, California State University Chancellor Timothy White said Tuesday the system surpassed its six-year graduation goal last year and reached a record number of four-year graduates, according to a statement issued Tuesday.

In the chancellor’s State of the CSU address to the Board of Trustees, White said that the university system has more work to do to close the “achievement gap” by improving graduation rates specifically among minority students. “The CSU has long acknowledged the existence of an achievement gap – but we should not be, and are not satisfied that only half of our undergraduates from underserved communities graduate within six years,” White said. “That is simply not inclusive.”

Overall, however, White noted the advancements made by the CSU in improving its graduation rates, saying the university system achieved its goal for improving the rate of students who graduate within six years.

“Additionally, the CSU fulfilled another goal last year by officially surpassing our target set for the Graduation Initiative 2015, where the goal for freshmen students was to increase six-year graduation rates from the baseline by eight percentage points,” White said. “We surpassed this goal, graduating record numbers of students as we achieved a nearly 11 percentage point improvement, for a total of 57 percent earning their degrees in six years or less, the highest in CSU’s history.”

White said the CSU system also set a record for its four-year graduation rate, which reached 19 percent for students who started in 2011, while Governor Jerry Brown is pushing the CSU to strengthen its four-year graduation rate, having noted in his recent budget that the national average is 34 percent, according to the release.

White’s initiative is to reach a 24 percent four-year graduation rate by 2025, with a six-year rate of 60 percent by that same year. In his speech, White noted that the graduation rates can be somewhat misleading, given that many CSU students are unable to take a full load of classes while balancing their lives at home.

“This approach can lead to inappropriate conclusions as it leaves out the grit and success of over half our students today – so many students with work, family and community obligations who cannot take 15 credits per semester,” he said. “We simply must, and will, be inclusive of these students going forward.”

White did not mention in his speech the ongoing salary dispute with members of the California Faculty Association, who have been pushing for a 5 percent pay hike, above the 2 percent being offered by the university, according to the release. The union’s members have already voted to authorize a strike.

“We continue to invest in our faculty as a critical factor in achieving our shared goals,” White said during the speech, without addressing the dispute.

“Last year, total CSU faculty levels reached all-time highs, as we continue tenure-track searches,” he said. White also stated that 742 new tenure-track faculty were hired in the 2014-15 academic year, a record year of hires since before the recession.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.