Editorials

Here’s a smart way to cut college costs, courtesy of Sacramento State

Graduation candidates listen to Sac State President Robert Nelsen during commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on December 19, 2015. Sac State held its winter commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena with 3,578 graduates.
Graduation candidates listen to Sac State President Robert Nelsen during commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on December 19, 2015. Sac State held its winter commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena with 3,578 graduates. rbenton@sacbee.com

Sacramento State will graduate its largest class ever this weekend when as many as 5,300 students proudly receive their diplomas in a commencement at Golden 1 Center. The university’s leaders can feel a special sense of achievement, too.

They’ve begun turning around an embarrassingly low four-year graduation rate, though they readily acknowledge they have much more work to do.

In one year, the number of students graduating in four years rose from the dismal 9 percent it had been to almost 12 percent. That may not seem huge, but it’s a 25 percent increase and headed in the right direction.

The freshman class offers other encouraging numbers. At the start of the year, 2,300 first-year students committed to complete 30 units this year. That would set them on a path to graduate in four years. By year’s end, 1,680 of those freshmen met that pledge. Not perfect, but far better than it had been even a year ago.

At President Robert S. Nelsen’s direction, the university created its “Finish in Four” program. In addition to working with high schools to reduce the need for remedial classes, Cal State University, Sacramento, has added 658 course sections, and offers $1,000 scholarships to ease the cost of summer classes for students who promise to graduate in four years.

“Sacramento State is doing an incredible job,” said Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda.

Glazer, a former member of the California State University board of trustees, is carrying Senate Bill 803, which would provide aid for students who promise to graduate in four years, and waive fees for students who cannot complete their studies because courses aren’t available.

The cost to the state would be minimal, but a student would save $26,000 by not having to spend an extra year in college. Legislators who claim to want to reduce college costs – they all do – have no excuse for not supporting SB 803.

With prodding from Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators, California State University has embarked on a systemwide initiative to significantly increase the four- and six-year graduation rates. Its success is important for us all.

One in 10 Californians with a job graduated from one of the 23 California State University campuses. Another 95,000 students will receive their diplomas this spring. They will be farmers, teachers, probation officers, wildlife managers, businesspeople and more, the vast majority of them getting jobs and paying taxes.

The Public Policy Institute of California recently wrote that this state will fall 1.1 million college graduates short of demand by 2030. If the state is going to come close to meeting that demand, the California State University system must step up.

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