Cal State Long Beach has received a national Excellence and Innovation Award for increasing graduation rates. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) announced yesterday, October 1 the inaugural winners in the new awards program honoring member institutions in several major areas of campus life and leadership.

CSULB was commended specifically for its Highly Valued Degree Initiative, a program that combines a wide variety of proven strategies for enhancing the success of its students comprehensively, instead of just focusing on only one or two ways to increase graduation rates. In just over a decade, first-time freshman overall graduation rates have risen by more than 20 percentage points from below 40 to 60 percent. According to CSULB, these major improvements have reached all ethnic and gender subgroups, while graduation rates for transfers have also reached an all-time high.

“The Student Success and College Completion Award from AASCU is a welcome affirmation
of faculty and staff efforts over the past decade,” said Jane Close Conoley in a statement, president of CSULB. “Our campus is singular in its purpose to offer student degrees with high value in the 21st Century. All of our faculty and staff are partners in encouraging our students, the majority of whom are first in their families to attend a university, to fully engage in the world class offerings of our university, achieve timely graduation and assume leadership positions in our society. Recognition from the AASCU is most meaningful to us and to our pre-K-12 and community college partners. It allows us to pause and celebrate our progress today and energizes us to double down our efforts to do more and improve even more in this area.”

Other awards given to seven ASSCU member campuses went for issues like regional and economic development, leadership development and diversity and international education. In addition, the winner of the annual Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award
was also announced as a component of this new program. The award was established in 1987 to honor the first teacher in space, who died in the 1986 Challenger disaster. It recognizes exemplary models of teacher preparation that link professional training to students’ learning outcomes.

“State colleges and universities have dealt with enormous challenges during the past decade,
yet they have remained committed to their missions of student access and success, and regional and economic progress, as well as a dedication to advancing the quality and distinction of their institutions,” said AASCU President Muriel A. Howard in a statement. “The innovative and collaborative approaches our members have engaged to successfully address their missions inspired us to create this awards program to foster recognition of their work.”

Criteria for the winning entries in the awards competition required evidence of top-level administrative support, connection with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda, evidence the initiative contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, and evidence the initiative was grounded in research and incorporated best practices.

AASCU is a Washington-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities and systems whose members share a culture centered on learning and teaching, a commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. 

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].