Woman wearing graduation robe and cap with hand in the air in triumph and celebration at a university commencement ceremony.
Press Release Graduation Initiative

Graduation Rates for All CSU Students Continue to Climb with Graduation Initiative 2025


Renewed focus on eliminating equity gaps will drive future CSU student success efforts

Woman wearing graduation robe and cap with hand in the air in triumph and celebration at a university commencement ceremony.

Photo courtesy of San Diego State University


​​​The hard work to improve student success across all 23 California State University (CSU) campuses continues to pay off as graduation rates have risen to all-time highs for both first-time and transfer students, despite the turbulence associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. A record 132,167 degrees were conferred by CSU campuses in 2020-21—nearly 25,000 more than prior to the launch of the university-wide initiative in 2015.

“Our resilient students undoubtedly deserve our respect and congratulations for their perseverance and accomplishments," said Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Sylvia A. Alva. “And we should celebrate our own extraordinary efforts to help keep nearly half a million students learning, engaged and moving forward despite unprecedented challenges. The CSU's exceptional faculty, staff and administrators have shown truly remarkable commitment and fortitude," added Alva, who shared data related to increases in graduation rates during a university-wide virtual convening​ held on October 22 that drew more than 2,000 faculty, staff, leaders and students. Among the information shared by Alva:

  • The four-year graduation rate for first-time students increased to 33% from 19% at the launch of the initiative.
  • The six-year graduation rate for first-time students increased to 63% from 57% at the launch of the initiative.
  • The two-year graduation rate for transfer students increased to 44% from 31% at the launch of the initiative.
  • The four-year graduation rate for transfer students increased to 80% from 73% at the launch of the initiative.

While student achievement has reached unprecedented heights on all 23 CSU campuses, the university continues to face challenges in eliminating equity gaps, which is the difference in graduation rates between students from historically underserved backgrounds and their peers.

During the convening, CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro shared initial details about a university-wide action plan that will be implemented to close equity gaps across the board.

“This has always been a top priority, and indeed we have a moral imperative to do better for our students," said Castro, who highlighted several examples of bold strategies to be implemented. “This plan, developed in conjunction with an advisory committee of expert stakeholders from across the system, pinpoints actions that all campuses must tackle immediately."

The plan's action items include:

  • An immediate, systemwide re-enrollment campaign with specific goals for bringing underserved students back to CSU campuses beginning in spring 2022.
  • ​Implementation of digital degree planners across all 23 campuses by June 2022 to ensure that every student has access to a clear pathway to graduation.
  • A university-wide focus on dramatically improving student learning outcomes in key courses with the largest numbers of non-passing grades and highest enrollments of underserved students.

All CSU campuses have also been asked to develop their own customized action plans to address equity gaps immediately. Additional details about the university-wide action plan will be shared at the upcoming CSU Board of Trustees meeting taking place on November 9 and 10, 2021.

About the California State University

The  California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 56,000 faculty and staff and 486,000 students. Half of the CSU's students transfer from California community colleges. Created in 1960, the mission of the CSU is to provide 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

Student Success