Leaders of Higher Education at August 11th Summit
Story Student Success

CSU Leadership Shares Graduation Initiative Success Stories with Education Leaders Across the Nation

Janessa Thropay

CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester and CSU leaders were among those present at the Raise the B.A.R. August 11th Summit.

Leaders of Higher Education at August 11th Summit

​L​ to R: Cal State Fullerton President Framroze Virjee, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester, CSU Dominguez Hills President Thomas Parham


​The Raise the B.A.R. (Bold + Action + Results in College Excellence & Equity) August 11th Summit, hosted by U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, provided the CSU with the opportunity to shed light on the positive impact of its own university-wide Graduation Initiative 2025. The event was attended by roughly 60 of the nation's most experienced leaders in public and private non-profit higher education, and the focal point of the summit was to engage in meaningful conversations on best practices and proven methods for equitably increasing student success.

CSU Chancellor Koester stated, “As the nation's largest and most diverse four-year public university system, the California State University is committed to leading the way in closing equity gaps and ensuring that students from all backgrounds achieve the lifelong, life-transforming benefits of a college degree. We are thrilled to join the U.S. Department of Education and our peers in higher education from across the country in sharing wisdom, inspiration and strategies as we work together toward a more equitable world."

The summit began with a presentation on building community. Honorary speakers, including Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, Office of Postsecondary Education, and Dr. Cindy Marten, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, broke down the methods of creating a sense of belonging to improve student success.

Since its inception in 2015, the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025 has led to unprecedented gains in graduation rates throughout the university and has reached all-time highs for students from all backgrounds. Approximately 25,000 more students earned CSU bachelor's degrees in 2020-21 than in the year before the initiative was launched. This increase is equivalent to graduating an additional university with an enrollment the size of Fresno State.

However, equity gaps remain and even increased incrementally during the pandemic, leading to a call from CSU leadership to redouble university efforts to reduce these stubborn gaps that impact underrepresented students and students of color. 

In 2021 the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025 Advisory Committee established key priorities to address these challenges, and those efforts have led to early successes through campus actions. These include implementing robust outreach efforts to reengage students who left the 2019 and 2020 cohorts; applying student success management systems to identify categories of students and the barriers they may be facing in order to have a greater impact; and anticipating and implementing the types of services returning students need to ensure their continued success.

Each of the 23 CSU presidents has assembled expert teams to develop their own ambitious, data-informed action plans to close equity gaps present on their campuses. New data will be released in fall 2022 demonstrating the continued impact of Graduation Initiative 2025 on the CSU system as a whole.

Throughout the summit, those in attendance participated in breakout sessions featuring small groups providing leaders the opportunity to share their experiences in improving graduation and retention rates. Cal State​ Fullerton's President Framroze Virjee was asked to lead a discussion on navigating the transfer process, and CSU Dominguez Hills'​ President Thomas Parham was asked to take the lead on a session focused on student well-being and basic needs.

Secretary Cardona wrapped the summit with an emphasis on the future: a “new vision for higher education." Attendees were encouraged to engage in a final facilitated discussion focused on moving forward together to accomplish the goals and priorities set before them. Following the discussion, U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary James Kvaal brought the summit to a close.

Learn more about the CSU's university-wide initiative ​to increase graduation rates for all CSU students while eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps.