2015/16 Executive Summary

CSU - Providing for Our Future

Student holding paper.As the nation’s largest four-year public university system, the CSU is a crucial partner in ensuring the state has an adequate educated workforce. As noted in recent budget requests, California’s near-term and long-run prospects for economic recovery and prosperity depend largely on the ability of the CSU to increase the number of Californians attaining higher education degrees. According to a report published by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), the CSU and public higher education are critical to California’s economic future:

  • Four of every five college students in California are enrolled in one of the state’s three public higher education systems;
  • The value of the college degree results in a 50 percent higher wage for workers over their peers who only hold a high school diploma; and
  • Nearly 90 percent of parents hope their child pursues a post high school education.

Student demand is at an all-time high. CSU campuses received more than 760,000 undergraduate applications for admission to the fall 2014 term and that number is expected to continue to increase this year. In order to meet the growing demand, renewed investment from the state is critical to ensuring the CSU can continue to build upon recent efforts to improve graduation rates, close the achievement gap and contribute to the overall economic prosperity and growth of the state. Over the past year, the CSU has continued to strategically focus resources on key student success initiatives that have shown proven progress towards improving degree attainment.

Graduation Initiative

Launched in 2009 amidst the height of the economic downturn, the CSU Graduation Initiative has explicitly refocused CSU priorities and maintained the historical focus on access, quality, and affordability, but with the added component of successful, timely degree completion. In the project’s shorthand, genuine access should not be strictly to the campus, but also to the degree. The initiative’s initial phase is approaching its sixth and final year and is on track to end with the likelihood of exceeding a very ambitious target for overall rates. In his inaugural “State of the CSU” address in January 2014, Chancellor White committed the system to continuing its focus on student success and to raising graduation rates for first-time full-time freshmen and transfer students.

The chancellor set 2025 as the target date for these goals, consistent with the year identified in the 2009 PPIC report, by which time the state will fall short by one million college graduates unless there is improvement. Since the publication of that report, PPIC staff has recognized gains in the CSU’s graduation rates, observing that the system is on-track to contribute its share of the additional degrees needed. However, as the chancellor pointed out in January, meeting the state’s long-term needs will require continued improvement and renewed, robust investment in higher education.

The second phase of the initiative launched October 15, 2014, with re-benchmarked systemwide and individual campus target graduation rates that will carry the CSU through 2025. This signature, over-arching systemwide initiative and systemwide and campus student success funding requests are uniquely and intimately integrated with these efforts. These funding requests tend to fall into two categories: 1) strengthening campus capacity to gather, analyze, and use real-time student success data, in support of local decision-making; or 2) supporting high-impact educational practices that deepen learning, improve graduate rates, and close achievement gaps. The CSU has been successful in strategically investing limited resources that are already starting to show positive returns.

Associate Degree for Transfer

Recently, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office provided the CSU with 5,082 records for students identified as graduates with an Associate Degree for Transfer from 2012/13 to 2013/14. When the CSU matched the records against systemwide applications files, 4,575 matched records were generated (90 percent of the records), indicating those graduates applied for transfer to the CSU. Ultimately, 4,337 were admitted to a CSU campus.

As of spring 2014, the CSU has identified 131 CSU graduates who entered with an Associate Degree for Transfer from a California Community College. All of these graduates matriculated in fall 2012 or after and in some cases graduated less than 2 years after transfer. As the number of Associate Degrees for Transfers continues to expand at the community college level, the program is showing promise for initial transfer students successfully completing their degrees in a timely manner.

Early Assessment and Early Start Programs

The Early Assessment Program (EAP) has been in existence for more than a decade. The program identifies students who are not yet ready for college level courses in English and mathematics by the end of their junior year of high school and provides them an opportunity to use their senior year to improve upon those skills. This early identification allows students to focus on those subjects and likely be more successful upon enrolling at the CSU.

Over the past decade, the CSU has seen a steady increase of students participating in EAP and who are designated as college ready by the end of their senior year (317,056 students participated in 2006 compared to 387,405 in 2013). In English, students who are college ready at the end of their junior year has increased from 15 percent in 2006 to 25 percent in 2014. Similarly, in mathematics, the percent of students who showed readiness at the end of their junior year was 12 percent in 2006 compared to 14 percent in 2013. During the same time, students who were conditionally ready in mathematics grew from 43 percent to 46 percent. Students who are deemed “conditionally ready” are highly encouraged to enroll in an advanced English and/or mathematics course in their senior year in order to be determined “college ready” at high school graduation.

Building on the successes of EAP and local campus approaches to address college readiness, such as Summer Bridge, the Early Start Program requires underprepared students “get started” on their pathway to proficiency in the summer proceeding freshman year of college. Students who have not otherwise demonstrated college readiness in English or mathematics must begin developmental coursework, but do not need to complete remediation nor even reduce their remedial course load. Intensive classes in English and mathematics strengthen skills and reduce the time necessary to get on the college track.

Early Start is envisioned as one additional pre-college pathway to enable underprepared students to start college as ready as possible. The number of students participating in Early Start has increased from over 16,000 in summer 2012 to more than 20,000 in summer 2014. While it will take several years to evaluate the impact of the program on retention and graduation, early indicators such as retention, persistence, and average unit load have shown promising results.

Student Success Initiatives

The CSU Enrollment Bottleneck Solutions Initiative, launched in 2013, is designed to accelerate student progress to degree and decrease bottlenecks that negatively impact students. Bottlenecks are anything that limits students’ ability to make progress toward graduation. Demand often exceeds supply because public universities are constrained by limited facilities and course requirements; faculty, staff and student schedules; resources; academic program requirements; and student readiness and their academic program choices.

Strategies and solutions to address the causes of enrollment bottlenecks include course redesign to improve student success and access; CourseMatch, which offers CSU students access to online courses delivered by campuses other than their own; Virtual Labs where faculty can offer hybrid lab courses; and eAdvising to streamline advising, registration, and academic planning for undergraduate students at all 23 campuses.

Reducing Overall Units to Degree/Time to Degree

The CSU has made significant progress through various initiatives to improve and support timely degree completion for all students. Notably, curricular reform between Spring 2009 and Fall 2014 has shrunk the percentage of baccalaureate degrees in excess of 120 required units from 29 percent to 5 percent systemwide. At the same time, the CSU strives to ensure and mitigate potential roadblocks that may delay graduation. Efforts to support student success and timely degree completion have included eAdvising and early warning and predictive analytics where students receive better and faster feedback about their performance in critical courses. Continued and renewed investments supporting student success initiatives that improve a student’s time-to-degree can prove to pay positive economic dividends for both students and taxpayers, as students will require fewer state resources per degree.