Fresno State Spring 2022 Graduation
Press Release Graduation Initiative

CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 Contributes to Large Increases in Number of Degrees Awarded


Students graduating sooner can mean decades of increased earning power.

Fresno State Spring 2022 Graduation

Photo courtesy of Fresno State


Eight years into Graduation Initiative 2025, the California State University (CSU) has nearly doubled its four-year graduation rate. These improved outcomes, combined with enrollment increases, have contributed to an additional 150,000 bachelor's degrees earned.

CSU undergraduate students are also earning their degrees at faster rates than ever before and are now graduating an average of one semester earlier since the launch of Graduation Initiative 2025. As a result, these students are projected to earn an additional $53,000 over their lifetimes. When multiplied by the estimated number of graduates, each class will enjoy over $4.5 billion in additional economic benefit because they were able to graduate sooner.

As it looks beyond 2025, the CSU plans to spend the upcoming year consulting stakeholders, shaping a new shared vision and developing strategies to further improve outcomes for all students, with particular focus on Black student success and other historically underserved groups. 

Preliminary data released today show that the CSU's systemwide four-year graduation rate for first-year students remains at 35%, nearly doubling the rate (19%) at the launch of the initiative in 2015.

“With every earned degree, the lives of our students and their families are forever transformed," said CSU Chancellor Mildred García. “While the CSU's collective focus on our ambitious goals has resulted in graduation rates at or near all-time highs, there is still much to accomplish in the coming years. We will boldly reimagine our work to remove barriers and close equity gaps for our historically marginalized students—America's new majority—as we continue to serve as the nation's most powerful driver of socioeconomic mobility."

Systemwide rates at the time of the initiative's launch, preliminary rates for 2023 groups and 2025 goals are as follows:

Student Group                          2015     2023     2025 goal 
4-year first-time                          19%      35%      40% 
6-year first-time                          57%      62%      70% 
2-year transfer                            31%      41%      45% 
4-year transfer                            73%      79%      85% 

Both 4-year and 6-year graduation rates for first-time students have remained steady since last year. The 2-year graduation rate for transfer students improved by 1 percentage point over 2022, and the 4-year rate remained relatively flat at 79.4, as compared to 80 percent in 2022.

While many higher education institutions continue to face the headwinds of the lingering impacts of the pandemic, the CSU still outperforms a significant majority of its peers across the nation—ranking in the 85th percentile for six-year graduation rates among more than 400 public colleges and universities with similar Carnegie classifications.

Despite improved graduation rates, 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 historically underserved students and Pell Grant recipients increasing by one percentage point each over the last year. 

​“We recognize this important opportunity to engage and collaborate with our larger community to narrow equity gaps so that all students have an opportunity to earn a life-changing college degree," said Jennifer Baszile, CSU associate vice chancellor of Student Success & Inclusive Excellence. “This work is a moral imperative for the CSU and it is essential for meeting California's need for a thriving, diverse workforce."​

On October 23, CSU stakeholders from across the system will gather for the Graduation Initiative Symposium in San Diego to examine the data, share scalable best practices, and begin conversations about access and student success beyond Graduation Initiative 2025.

Final data and further analysis will be presented during the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on November 7 and 8, 2023.

​To learn more about the CSU​'s efforts to support students through GI 2025, read our Action for Equity series on reenrollment efforts, digital degree planners, removing administrative barriers​, expanding credit opportunities ​and equitable learning practices​.

About the California State University

The California State University is the nation's largest four-year public university system, providing transformational opportunities for upward mobility to nearly 460,000 students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. More than half of CSU students are people of color, and nearly one-third of them are first-generation college students. Because the CSU's 23 universities provide a high-quality education at an incredible value, they are rated among the best in the nation for promoting social mobility in national college rankings from U.S. News & World Report, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Monthly. The CSU powers California and the nation, sending nearly 127,000 career-ready graduates into the workforce each year. In fact, one in every 20 Americans holding a college degree ​earned it at the CSU. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU newsroom.