As Graduation Initiative 2025 enters its fifth year, the CSU expects to invest $120 million of the 2021-22 operating budget request to meet the ambitious goals adopted by each campus. Launched in 2016, this initiative aims to increase graduation rates for first-time and transfer students, eliminate equity gaps for historically underserved students of color and Pell Grant recipients and meet California’s workforce needs. Reducing time to degree means that graduates enter the workforce or graduate sooner, positively impacting their future and producing additional graduates to power California.
Based on preliminary 2020 data, four- and six-year graduation rates for first-time students and two- and four-year rates for transfer students continue to increase and have reached all-time highs. These remarkable improvements represent the dedication of CSU faculty and staff, intentional action by campus leaders and a systemwide focus on student success.
Closing equity gaps in higher education is the challenge of our time. CSU campuses are rising to that challenge, continuing university-wide efforts to eliminate equity gaps. While graduation rates continue to rise for students from all backgrounds, the persistence of the equity gaps underscores the need for an explicit focus at every level of the university.
Continuous state funding for Graduation Initiative 2025 is critical to maintain momentum. Campuses will continue to use these funds to offer more courses, hire additional tenure-track faculty and to advance innovative student success practices, with a focus on these six areas:
One critical academic and student support strategy that cuts across all six areas is advising. CSU campuses have been national leaders adopting technology platforms that provide students with accessible, real-time academic planning and navigation tools.
These efforts ensure that all students have the opportunity to earn a degree, empowering current and future generations of Californians. More information about specific systemwide and campus priorities can be found at calstate.edu/graduationinitiative.
The CSU requests $30 million to sustain and expand its Basic Needs initiatives in support of Graduation Initiative 2025. Following a landmark research project into the prevalence of food and housing insecurity among CSU students, the Chancellor’s Office launched a systemwide initiative in 2015 to provide a framework for the CSU’s 23 campuses that guides a more coordinated approach to developing basic needs programs and services. These strategies are intended to support students experiencing food and housing insecurities, unanticipated financial distress, mental health concerns and overall health and safety challenges that have the potential to disrupt their timely pathways to degree.
While the CSU’s primary mission is educational in nature, the CSU recognizes that students cannot be fully engaged in, or out of, the classroom if they are preoccupied with hunger, housing insecurity, personal safety or mental health concerns. As such, leaders across all 23 campuses have committed to enhancing and developing resources consistent with the CSU academic mission to reduce the negative impact of these basic needs gaps on student retention and graduation. From a fall 2020 survey, campuses are investing $92 million from all funding sources on basic needs support and services to students.
Strategies to ameliorate students’ basic needs challenges include, but are not limited to:
In the current context of COVID-19, many CSU campuses have expanded their basic needs initiatives to also include programs that address the digital divide. Examples include laptop/tablet and mobile Wi-Fi hot spot distribution or lending programs, as well as access to low-cost home installation of high-speed internet service.
There is also a need to increase prevention efforts, health promotion programs and services for early identification and intervention. The CSU continues to work to destigmatize students’ use of mental health and basic needs programs and services so that struggling students feel comfortable seeking help from both campus and community-based supports for help in a timely manner. Further, through continuing training and capacity-building, faculty and staff will be better positioned to amplify campus efforts and refer students to appropriate resources on and off campus. The CSU will continue to identify sustainable solutions for students for a variety of emergency housing programs at each of the 23 campuses.
As in prior years, the Chancellor’s Office will distribute awards to campuses to expand, for example, existing efforts to provide affordable housing, minimize student hunger, raise awareness of services currently offered on campus and develop practices to provide additional emergency financial assistance to students in need. A key feature of these efforts will be to build and sustain partnerships with community-based organizations, private foundations and governmental entities. Efforts will be made to focus investments in a strategic manner, such that campuses will be encouraged to apply for seed funding to establish and grow new programs and assess the impact of these efforts.