CSU Retention and Graduation Rates Exceed Those at Benchmark Institutions

CSU Access and Graduation Rates Vary by Racial and Ethnic Groups

Contact: Clara Potes-Fellow (562) 951-4800 cpotes-fellow@calstate.edu

(Jan. 26, 2005) – An analysis of student access, retention and graduation rates of CSU students shows that overall--and across racial and ethnic groups--the first-year retention rates and the 6-year graduation rates of CSU students exceed those for national benchmarks. This information was provided in a report to the Board of Trustees today.

The CSU graduation rate for first-time freshmen entering the CSU in 1997 was 54 percent after six years — 10 percentage points higher than the national benchmark of 44 percent. In addition, the first-year retention rate for fall 1997 first-time freshmen was 79 percent, compared to 70 percent nationally. The analysis shows that the CSU exceeded the national benchmarks across gender, racial and ethnic groups.

“This analysis suggests that CSU campuses are providing students with the kinds of instruction, campus climate and services that are similar or better than those provided by other universities serving similar students,” said David S. Spence, CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “But a 54 percent graduation rate is not high enough. We believe that to maintain the enormous impact that CSU has had on the California economy, the CSU will have to provide even higher numbers of citizens and workers with baccalaureate degrees.”

Graduation rates tend to be stable from year to year. But across the decades, CSU graduation rates have shown notable gains. Fall 1977 CSU first-time freshmen had a 38 percent graduation rate after six years; their fall 1987 counterparts had a 47 percent graduation rate, and fall 1997 counterparts graduated at 54 percent after six years.

Therefore, Spence said, a graduation rate that ranges between 60 and 70 percent seems to be an ambitious, but feasible goal over the next decade.

Access varies among racial and ethnic groups

The study shows that CSU enrollment of first-time freshmen is proportionate to the population of high school graduates for Whites (42.1 percent vs. 42.8 percent), African Americans (7.5 percent vs. 7.3 percent), and Native Americans (0.8 percent vs. 0.9 percent). Other groups, however, are not enrolling as first-time freshmen in proportion to their graduate population from California high schools -- Latinos are underrepresented (27.8 percent vs. 34.5 percent) while Asian and Pacific Islanders (15.8 percent vs. 11.2 percent) and Filipinos (6.0 percent vs. 3.3 percent) are overrepresented.

The report pays special attention to the gap between African American and Latino eligibility rates and CSU’s eligibility standard. Both groups’ eligibility rates are still distant from the 33 1/3 percent eligibility standard --African Americans’ rate is 21 percent and Latinos’ rate is 18 percent.

The fact that African American and Latino comprehensive public high school graduates are still some distance from the 33-1/3 percent goal of eligibility underscores the need for K-12 and higher education, which prepares K-12 teachers and administrators, to continue their efforts to provide all students with sound, solid academic preparation.

The good news is that African American and Latino eligibility pools have improved in recent years. The African American and Latino Class of 2003 had higher eligibility rates than their counterparts in the Class of 1996: In 2003, 21 percent of African American and 18 percent of Latinos were eligible for the CSU as compared to 13 percent and 13 percent in 1996, respectively.

Graduation rates interplay with English and mathematics proficiency of first-time freshmen

According to the report, research literature shows that a correlation exists between graduation rates and first-time freshmen proficiency rates in English and mathematics. Students who are in need of remediation in their freshman year take more time to complete a baccalaureate degree.

Among students who entered the CSU as first-time freshmen in fall 1997, White and Asian Pacific Islanders were more represented among baccalaureate degree recipients than were Latinos and African Americans.

Likewise, CSU proficiency evaluations conducted annually also show notable gaps in mathematics and English proficiency by racial and ethnic group -- Asian Pacific Islanders, Whites, and American Indians have lower need of mathematics remediation than Latinos and African Americans.

And Whites and American Indians have lower need of English remediation than African Americans, Latinos and Asian Pacific Islanders.

The report points out that the differentials in mathematics and English proficiency by racial and ethnic group interplay with the differentials in baccalaureate degrees conferred.

CSU steps up efforts to facilitate graduation

To attack the problem, CSU has launched an aggressive program of professional development for high school teachers and has adjusted the English programs of students preparing to become teachers so that they focus their attention on critical reading and writing.

In addition, the CSU has partnered with California’s public schools to give high school juniors the opportunity to receive an Early Assessment of their English and mathematics skills. Those eleventh graders who need to hone their skills to achieve college readiness can complete their work in the senior year.

These programs aim at closing the preparation gap among racial and ethnic groups as well as improving graduation rates across the board.

Other initiatives to improve graduation

Plans and actions that CSU campuses are undertaking to facilitate graduation include:

  • Understanding the nature of CSU undergraduates, who on average are older than the traditional 18-22 years, who work many hours per week to support themselves and often their families and dependents, and who often take less than 12-15 units per term.
  • Assisting freshmen and sophomores to clarify their life and career goals, which then can guide a choice of major, and motivate students to move efficiently to the bachelor’s degree.
  • Fostering and encouraging renewed emphasis on advising.
  • Improving class schedules to meet student demand and to avoid class “bottlenecks.”
  • Considering incentives and disincentives that may encourage undergraduates to make efficient course choices and to graduate with few units beyond the minimum required for the baccalaureate.

The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 400,000 students and 42,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded about 2 million degrees, about 82,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California. See www.calstate.edu

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