Only one out of every five Cal State students who enter college as full-time freshmen — 20 percent — graduate within four years.
That rate is far below the national average four-year graduation rate for public universities, which is 34 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And only two of the 13 CSU campuses have full-time four-year graduation rates close to or above that average.
This can lead to higher college loan debts and delays in getting careers started. A lack of space in general education classes required for graduation is one of the issues often cited in delaying graduations.
State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), a former CSU trustee, is proposing a plan that seeks to boost the four-year graduation rate in the state’s public universities.
“California State Universities are about 25 percent below the national average, so we have a lot of room to grow,” said Glazer, during a recent press conference at California State University Northridge (CSUN) where he announced his legislation.
SB 1450 or “California Promise” calls for a tuition freeze, the creation of registration priorities and academic advising. If adopted, students who agree to take 15 units a semester and maintain a “C” grade-point average would get priority registration for popular classes.
A similar pilot program is already underway at four of the 23 Cal State campuses.
“It’s a tragedy that so few CSU students are able to graduate within four years,” Glazer said. “This legislation, with financial incentives and program efficiencies, will allow CSU students to break through the logjam that has left too many students with graduation roadblocks and high debt.”
The state senator estimated that the bill would benefit up to 14,000 students in the state, and represent savings of $220 million for students and their families.
If approved, students who sign up for Glazer’s program would get some perks.
“Their tuition will be frozen for all four years in which they’re going to the university, so what they pay in their first year will be the same as what pay in their last year as long as they’re continuing to make progress toward their degree,” he said.
“I think with this legislation we can move the institutions and change student behavior and improve the graduation rate,” he added.
Glazer said his bill already has the support of 20 Democratic and Republican senators.
“CSUs provide quality,
affordable education but the four-year grad rate is 25 percent below the national average,” he said.
Currently, about 54 percent of first-time freshmen finish within six years, including the 19 percent that finish within four years.
Chancellor Timothy P. White, in his State of the CSU address, noted that graduation rates in the CSU are at a 10-year high, with the university surpassing its initial goals to improve graduation rates among first-time freshmen.
“We achieved a nearly 11 percentage point improvement … for a total of 57 percent earning their degrees in six years or less, the highest in the CSU’s history,” he said, in reference to the Graduation Initiative launched in 2009.
Among Los Angeles and Orange County area universities, CSU Dominguez Hills has the worst four-year graduation rate (4 percent), followed by CSU Los Angeles (5 percent). Cal State Fullerton and Cal Poly Pomona both have graduation rates at 18 percent, Glazer said.
Chico, Sonoma and San Diego have graduation rates above the national average.
CSUN doesn’t fair much better. About 10 percent of its entering freshmen students graduate in four years.
This prompted President Dianne Harrison last year to pledge an increase in the graduation rate for first-time freshman to 60 percent by 2025.
School officials, however, do recognize that there are other factors for the delay in graduation. Some students change majors, or work long hours and can’t take many units at once.
In 2012 ,CSUN launched the Early Start Math, where incoming students can take online classes over the summer before entering CSUN to prepare them for the transition from high school to college.
Last year, the school also began an advisement program to track students, according to their achievement and goals toward graduation.