California State University student on the shoulders of another student during commencement ceremony
Press Release Graduation Initiative

Four-Year Graduation Rate for First-Time Students Hits Historic High with CSU Graduation Initiative 2025



California State University student on the shoulders of another student during commencement ceremony

Intentional focus across all 23 California State University (CSU) campuses continues to result in increased student achievement, with Graduation Initiative 2025 efforts leading to the highest 4-year graduation rate for first-year students in the CSU's history. In 2022, 35% of first-year students earned their bachelor's degrees within four years, nearly doubling the rate since the launch of the initiative in 2015.

“Earning a degree from the California State University transforms lives. I have witnessed it firsthand for nearly four decades, and seeing our talented and diverse students achieve their academic goals is a great joy and my highest professional honor," said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “A CSU degree not only prepares students for success in their professional careers, but it also elevates their families and positively impacts the communities where they live and work."

This year, the hard work of students, faculty and staff has resulted in nearly 110,000 students earning their bachelor's degrees. This is 23,000 more graduates when compared to the 2014-15 academic year—the year before Graduation Initiative 2025 began.

Systemwide rates at the time of the initiative's launch, rates for 2021, preliminary rates for 2022 groups and 2025 goals are as follows:

Student Group         2015    2021    2022    2025 goal

4-year first-time           19%      33%      35%      40%

6-year first-time           57%      63%      62%      70%

2-year transfer             31%      44%      40%      45%

4-year transfer             73%      80%      80%      85%

In addition to the increase in 4-year graduation rates for first-time students, 6-year rates for first-year students remained steady (63.2% to 62.4%). The global COVID-19 pandemic appeared to have a greater impact on the success of students who transferred to the CSU from California Community Colleges, with the two-year graduation rate declining by four percentage points, while the 4-year rate saw an incremental increase (79.6% to 80.3%).

Despite systemwide efforts, eliminating equity gaps—the difference in graduation rates between students from historically underserved backgrounds and their peers—remains an ongoing challenge, with the equity gap for Underrepresented Minority Students staying flat (12 percentage points) and slightly increasing (to 11 points from 10 points) for Pell Grant recipients.

"The global pandemic has impacted all of us, but none more than our most historically marginalized students," added Koester. “I continue to be inspired by their remarkable tenacity, perseverance and resolve, and our university community is wholeheartedly committed to their success. Over the past year, we have identified a number of key strategies to address common challenges and are well positioned to support our students in the coming months and years as we progress toward our ambitious goals."

Most recently, the CSU is re-engaging underserved students who have disenrolled, expanding the use of digital degree planners, reviewing and restructuring courses with inequitable low-pass rates, bolstering student opportunities to earn credits during summer and winter sessions and eliminating administrative barriers. The Chancellor has also enlisted two new strategic work groups to develop longer-term frameworks for ensuring Black student success, improving retention and graduation rates and closing equity gaps.

The university remains committed to achieving the goals set at the start of Graduation Initiative 2025 and eliminating equity gaps for all CSU students—particularly for underserved students of color, first-generation college students and students from modest-income families.

Final data—including data disaggregated by race and ethnicity—and further analysis will be presented during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting taking place on November 15 and 16, 2022. The data will be published to the CSU website shortly thereafter.

About the California State University

The California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 477,000 students and 56,000 faculty and staff. Nearly 40 percent of the CSU's undergraduate students transfer from California Community Colleges. The CSU was created in 1960 with a mission of providing high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of California. With its commitment to quality, opportunity and student success, the CSU is renowned for superb teaching, innovative research and for producing job-ready graduates. Each year, the CSU awards more than 132,000 degrees. One in every 20 Americans holding a college degree is a graduate of the CSU and our alumni are 4 million strong. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU NewsCenter.

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