Story Graduation Initiative

CSU’S New Online Dashboards Help Prepare Students for College Success

Lorraine Crawford



What should I major in? How can I afford it? Do I have the grades? Am I taking the right classes? What can I do now to be successful in college once I have enrolled?  

These are just a few of the questions that CSU's new online "dashboards" can help high school counselors and community partners better address, preparing their students not only to help them to get admitted, but for success upon enrollment.

As high school juniors start their college planning,  CSU's High School Dashboard, Community College Dashboard and Church Partners Dashboard  are now providing an easy interface for partners to access key data about past students that enrolled in any of CSU's 23 campuses in the last three years.

 "The California State University has officially launched Graduation Initiative 2025 which commits us to systematically discover and dislodge roadblocks to students' success. Our focus is not just about getting students in the door, but ensuring that we work diligently to facilitate their path to a college degree. These websites provide a platform for engaging our K-12, community college and faith-based partners with actionable data and identifying areas for collaboration to greatly improve student success," says Jeff Gold, CSU assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs.

By accessing the data through these dashboards, counselors and administrators can review how their past students who enrolled at a CSU campus actually progressed.  "They can look at the track record of their students, review various academic milestones that their students either meet or don't meet once they arrive at the CSU, and use these findings to develop programs to improve the future success of students they send to the CSU each year," he says.

 "In the past, we have focused heavily on issues of access and the importance of enrolling in college, and placed less emphasis on what it takes to succeed once you arrive at a CSU campus.  These dashboards are a call to our partners in the K-12 and community college communities to join us in a collective effort to ensure that these college success messages are being reinforced early, and from a wide variety of stakeholders."

Grouping data for high school and community colleges separately, the online dashboards reveal how many of each school's students enrolled at every CSU campus; how many completed a full course load in their first year; how many students declared their major at the time of enrollment; and ultimately, how many graduated from a CSU within six years.

"Easy access to this data helps start the conversation," says Marisela Cervantes, CSU director of community partnerships. "The dashboard allows them to zero in on how well their efforts to prepare their students for college success are working, and adjust as needed."

Depending on what the data shows in each category, the dashboard generates advice for the partners to guide their students' success in college. For instance, if the data reveals that the students aren't taking full course loads upon enrollment, the dashboard advises that students be informed of the importance of getting off to a fast start – not only to increase their odds of graduating, but the cost savings they'll reap in tuition, loans and extra dollars earning full-time wages upon graduation. 

"Research shows convincingly that taking a full course load -- straight out of the gate or their first year – greatly affects their odds of graduating in less than six years," Gold says.

The dashboards also reveal how many students declared a major upon admission. If the percentage is low, the site advises, "Help your students see the realities of their major choices early; If they are interested in a STEM or pre-med track, encourage them to take prerequisites early to find out ASAP whether this is the path they want to follow; and create opportunities for students to meet professionals in those fields."

The high school dashboards also recommend that students be advised early about CSU's Early Assessment Program (EAP) with 11th graders, financial aid, scholarships, on campus employment and internships. CSU's partners can also view and compare the data on students from other high schools in their region to share ideas for college success.

Reaching Out to Parents and Faith-Based Partners

Beyond the schools, the CSU External Relations department is also reaching out to parents, churches and local communities, introducing the dashboards as another tool that can be used to close the achievement gap between underserved students and their peers. (Academic and Student Affairs launched the High School Dashboard at its annual conference series for high school counselors last fall, following with the Community College and Church Partner Dashboards in January, 2017.)

Cervantes says, "These dashboards are so important for us to increase collaboration with our partners. Last month, we staged 'Super Sunday,' reaching out to more than 100 churches, African American leaders and alumni to talk about college readiness among their congregations.  With our first time using the dashboard, we mapped out all our church partners and schools so they can see what college readiness looks like in their community."

The new dashboards were also introduced to the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), a CSU partner in improving college readiness which trains parents to foster a college-going culture in the home.

Cervantes says, "People have been very welcoming of the data and thinking of new ways to address college readiness. We're all speaking the same language. It really does take a village -- parents, students, principals, community organizations, all of us -- to improve college readiness.