California State University System Starts New Program to Boost Black Student Graduation Rates

Last week JBHE reported that this month CalState administrators were recruiting at 100 churches with predominantly black congregations. But the university’s efforts are not restricted to enrollments. The trustees of the California State University system recently announced a new initiative to boost the graduation rate of students, particularly those from low-income and minority groups. The goal is to increase the systemwide graduation rate from the current 46 percent to 54 percent by 2016. One method to improve the overall graduation rate is to reduce the racial gap. Universities will be given specific targets for raising their graduation rates among each ethnic minority. The goals call for improving black and Hispanic graduation rates at a pace greater than the targeted increase for whites.

Among the programs that will be implemented to boost graduation rates are summer bridge programs for entering freshmen to help them transition to a college-level curriculum, additional academic advising, and increased student usage of online learning. Students will also be required to declare a major earlier and will face restrictions in their ability to drop classes, ensuring that students have an adequate course level to achieve graduation in a reasonable time period.

Some skeptics have pointed out that the huge rise in student fees and insufficient financial aid from the state will make it extremely difficult to increase black student graduation rates. JBHE research has shown that two thirds of the black students who drop out of college do so because of financial reasons.