At both statewide and local levels, steps are being taken to ensure that California State University students graduate in four years.
Currently, only 19 percent of students at CSU campuses graduate on time. At Stanislaus State, that number is below the state average, with just 12 percent of freshmen graduating in four years. Both percentages are well below the national average of 34 percent. The state government and Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn have both set plans into motion in attempt to help those numbers rise.
Last week, California lawmakers sent the governor a bill which will create programs at CSU campuses aimed at helping students graduate on time. Former CSU Trustee and State Senator Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, authored the bill called California Promise.
“It is a big disappointment that so few CSU students graduate within four years,” said Glazer. “This legislation, with financial incentives and program efficiencies, will allow CSU students to break through the logjam that has left too many students with graduation roadblocks and high debt.”
Students in the programs would receive extra support from academic advisors, as well as priority registration for classes, financial incentives and a tuition freeze. They would be required to take a minimum number of credits and maintain a qualifying GPA.
Students given priority to participate in the programs would include low-income and first-generation students, community college graduates and students from communities with low college attendance rates. Students in the programs would also have to be eligible for in-state tuition.
If the bill passes, the new incentives could be in place as early as fall of 2017.
Meanwhile, Stanislaus State, along with the other CSU campuses, is exploring a new software program that will tell students which courses to take in order to graduate in four years. The program, named Smart Planner, gives students a visual presentation of their current academic status and their future path, and aids students in completing their degree quicker and more effectively.
Requirements for majors, minors and general education are displayed in a recommended sequence on one page using real time information regarding the student’s progression, and students can then select which courses they plan to take over the next four years. Once the program is implemented on campuses and the majority of students are using it, student selections can be used to predict course demand.
“That data can roll up and it can go to the departments of the deans, and the deans can say, ‘I see, this semester I need to have 10 more sections of that course,’” explained Junn. “It’s data analysis that then gives us some predictability, and those are things that we need to take greater attention to.”
Junn also shared other details of the program, which include various models at the budget level which will inform the university if it needs to supply additional funds to open more sections of classes as student demand occurs.
The solution to helping more students graduate on time, however, does not just rely on technology.
“The key to all of this is that students have to have the correct advisement,” said Junn.
While California Promise plans to provide extra advising to those who qualify for its programs, Junn hopes to increase the quality of advising for all students at Stanislaus State.
“I want to help students get better access to high quality advising,” said Junn. “You can make advising mandatory, but it’s a two-way street. The student has to go to advising, listen and use the advice to their best advantage.”
The road to increasing the four year graduation rate is three-pronged, said Junn, with technology, advising and budget alignment combining to create an effective plan.
“It’s very exciting because we now have tools that can give us some insight,” she said.
Junn hopes that Smart Planner will be partially in play this upcoming spring semester and fully implemented by fall of 2017.
“My hope is that in the next year or so we can make progress.”