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Less hassle, more tassle with the Graduation Initiative 2025

A $2.4 million one-time grant from the California Legislature is funding nine sections of research, outreach and timely graduation initiatives.

Michaela Kwoka-Coleman, Assistant News Editor

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Cal State Long Beach students should expect to see more sections of highly impacted classes, among other changes, thanks to programs and research conducted under the Graduation 2025 Initiative.

In January 2015, the California State University system launched the initiative, aiming to increase graduation rates across the 23 campuses. Currently, the four-year graduation rate for the CSU is 20 percent, according to James Minor, senior strategist at the CSU Office of the Chancellor. At CSULB, the four-year graduation rate hovers around 19 percent.

According to Minor, the mandate isn’t an attempt to push out unprepared students for the sake of graduation rates, but rather policy to ensure students do not deviate from the graduation track they’re on.

“In no way shape or form do I understand the graduation initiative to sort of be cramming students on a four-year track who shouldn’t belong,” he said. “Right now across 23 campuses of more than 475,000 students, our four-year graduation rate is about 20 percent. The goal for the grad initiative is to move that 20 percent up to 40 percent. That would still mean that 60 percent, the overwhelming majority of students, would not graduate in four years.”

Minor said that the student’s individual graduation plan has to be taken into consideration, and that not all students are the same.

“We’ve got four-year goals, we’ve got six-year goals, but the essence behind this has been that even if the student has a five-year grad plan, we’re saying that’s fine,” he said. “If the student intends to graduate in five years, it should not take her six. If a student comes in and he or she is on a six-year plan, it should not take them seven.”

According to the CSU website, the two of the Graduation 2025 goals are to increase four-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen to 40 percent and increase the four-year graduation rate for transfer students to 85 percent.

At CSULB, the Highly Valued Degree Initiative 2025 Task Forces were created during fall 2016, composed of students, faculty and staff, to address the graduation initiative.

In total there are five taskforces: Re-Imagining the First Year, which works to improve the quality of learning experiences for freshman and transfer students; Research and Evaluation, which uses data to support students in closing the achievement gap and increasing graduation rates; Communication, which promotes timely graduation to students, faculty, staff, parents and community members; Student Engagement, which develops and improves student engagement in campus activities; Advisory Board for Student Success, which organizes graduation campaigns across campus.

Jessica Pandya, chair of the department of liberal studies and co-chair of the Communication Task Force, said her team is charged with gathering data on “bottleneck classes,” classes that are not passed frequently that students need for their major, systematic barriers to four-year graduation and financial hardships.

To help with this task force, CSULB received a $2.4 million one-time grant from the state legislature. CSULB Provost Brian Jersky said the grant, which must be spent by June 30 of this year, was divided among nine areas.

The largest amount, roughly $1.1 million, was divided among the eight colleges within the university to organize an advising campaign to ensure all students who are currently on a four-year plan to graduate during the 2017-2018 academic year remain on track, ensuring nothing prevents them from graduating.

Additionally, $110,000 was given to the colleges to offer summer 2017 courses needed for students who are would be able to graduate in the spring, but are being held back by one class.

“We knew what we needed to do was to have courses this summer, specifically for students who needed to graduate,” Jersky said. “The reason I’m saying those were special courses was because normally, they wouldn’t be offered because they’re too small or too specialized, but they were offered because these [students] needed them [to graduate].”

The Provost’s Office also set aside $150,000, separate from the grant given by the legislature, for summer incentive grants.

The incentive grants are for students who have the ability graduate in summer 2017 and provide free tuition for up to six units that count toward completing their degree.

Academic advisors identified both the classes needed for summer graduation and the students who should receive the grants.

The five task forces within the Highly Valued Degree Initiative 2025 Task Forces received a total of $403,006.

Additionally, $105,000 was given to high-impact course development, which will help to identify impacted courses and create more sections or online options.

While the bulk of the money went to the task forces and individual colleges, $140,000 was given to student affairs for student support services, $350,000 for institutional research and faculty led research on timely graduation and $160,000 to internship and service learning tracking in the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Health and Human Services and Education.

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