CSU launches initiative to increase grad rates

Amber Green

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California State University (CSU) has introduced a graduation initiative that will help increase graduation rates amongst the 23 campuses by eight percent by 2016.

Erik Fallis, the media relation’s specialist for the CSU system said the CSU has taken the  step of setting targets for addressing both the issues of graduation rate and achievement gap.

According to the CSU Web site, the six-year graduation rate is about 46 percent and the goal is to ultimately raise that number to 54 percent.  The initiative is to help underrepresented students complete their college education.

“Graduation is important, and the fact is that too many students take more than six years to graduate,” Fallis said.

Gelareh Rouzbehani, a senior majoring in psychology, feels advisors need to offer a little more time during the advisement period.

“The advisors seem to be there to give us a gist of what we should take but do not take enough time to sit with us and really plan (our classes) out,” said Rouzbehani, 22.
Fallis said each campus would implement their own customized plan to increase graduation rates based on the individuality of each campus.

“Each campus has committed to its own 2016 target,” Fallis said. “CSU campuses are also different in terms of size, student demographics, academic programs and available resources. Therefore, individual campuses will write a plan to meet the needs of their students.”

Cynthia Z. Rawitch, associate vice president of undergraduate studies, said CSUN started working on improving graduation rates four years ago.

“We’re already (half) way there, in terms (of) how we’re improving graduation rates,” Rawitch said.

As stated on the CSU Website, some of the actions that will be discussed include decreasing general education courses as a way to get students to take courses that pertain to their major.

“There is room for discussion on a number of possible steps to facilitating student graduation, including a discussion on general education requirements,” Fallis said.

Rawitch said decreasing general education is something that has already begun on campus.

“We have no problem in decreasing general education courses because we’ve already (done) it and it’s been quite successful for students,” Rawitch said.

Rawitch said CSUN has spent three years revising its general education requirements and they have gone from 68 units to 48, which she said makes more sense.

“Reducing the general education courses opens the students’ curriculum up to do more quirky things, like taking a painting or theater class, or they may choose to do a minor,” Rawitch added.

Rouzbehani said students taking general education courses that are irrelevant to their major are wasting time and money for both the student and the university.

“There are way too many general education classes that don’t always pertain to each students’ specific major,” Rouzbehani said. “This is a good idea because it will help students graduate earlier, decrease the number of dropouts and increase the number of new professions in every career,” Rouzbehani said.

Fallis said the CSU will not lose focus on educational goals because of the decrease in general education courses.

“This does not change the educational focus of the CSU on high-quality, accessible degree programs,” Fallis said.

Rouzbehani said she agrees that making money is more important in today’s age.

“Money is so important now and with so many jobs hiring with basic levels of education or just associates degrees some students do not feel the need to continue with school because it is a must that they work,” Rouzbehani said.

Fallis said the purpose of the initiative is to look closely into the reasons why so many underrepresented students don’t graduate.

Rawitch said many of the students on campus work between 20-40 hours a week and they work to either support a family or support themselves because they live on their own.

“Working limits the time and energy they need to put towards their academics and the ability to stay and graduate is clearly more difficult to do,” Rawitch added.

Fallis also said students can help achieve these goals as well but they tend to run into problems with the advisors not laying down a concise path to graduation.

“Students should plan ahead and keep the lines of communication with academic advisors open,” Fallis said. “One primary problem student’s face is not having a clear roadmap of the path to a degree.”