In response to the editorial about new Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen (“New CSUS president puts graduation rates first,” July 7), I congratulate him and welcome him to the capital city.
I applaud California State University Chancellor Timothy White and the Board of Trustees for selecting someone with proven success in raising student completion rates, particularly for students of color.
In December, Senate Democrats introduced Senate Bill 15 – authored by Marty Block, Carol Liu and myself – to establish graduation incentive grants for CSU students. Students will receive as much as $2,000 in cash for completing 15 units a semester.
Currently, a full-time CSU student is required to take only 12 units a semester to qualify for financial aid, when it takes 15 units per semester to graduate in four years.
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The benefits to a student graduating in four years are well documented. The Campaign for College Opportunity estimates that a student who takes six years rather than four to earn a bachelor’s degree will spend an additional $58,000 on tuition, fees, books and other expenses, and earn $52,900 less over his or her lifetime.
At the same time, the total cost of a CSU education has increased more than 50 percent over the past 10 years. As a father of a college-age daughter, I worry about tuition, but I am equally concerned about books and living expenses.
Nelsen says he plans to provide cash incentives to Sacramento State students to take 15 units a semester. He recognizes the power of financial incentives to influence student behavior to the benefit of the student and the economy. The bottom line is he wants to improve Sacramento State’s four-year graduation rate from the current disappointing 9 percent. The CSU-wide graduation rate is not much better, at 19 percent.
To Nelsen, I say “kudos!” It is this kind of forward thinking that I and my fellow senators fully support.
The Senate stands ready to work with him to establish the incentive grant for Sac State students and all CSU students. It’s a 10-minute car ride between our offices. Let’s visit and work together to help more Sac State students graduate in four years.
Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, is Senate president pro tem and represents the 24th Senate District.