Soapbox

A new deal to help CSU students graduate on time

Family and friends cheer at the CSU Stanislaus commencement in May 2013.
Family and friends cheer at the CSU Stanislaus commencement in May 2013. Modesto Bee file

When college students step on campus as freshmen, they are filled with lofty aspirations and achievable goals – including graduating on time.

How shocked would California State University students be if we told them that fewer than 20 percent will graduate in four years? And how much confidence could we inspire if we gave them a real path to finish on time?

I have introduced Senate Bill 1450, which goes before the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, to create a groundbreaking opportunity for CSU students to graduate in four years.

It sets a goal of meeting the national four-year graduation rate; CSU’s rates are 25 percent below similar universities. It offers financial incentives and program efficiencies, and will allow CSU students to break through the logjam that has left too many students with high debt.

Under the California Promise between students and campuses:

▪ Students would be required to complete 30 units per academic year and to maintain a minimum grade-point average determined by each campus.

▪ Students entering CSU and California Community Colleges who agree to the promise would receive priority registration for classes.

▪ Tuition would be frozen at the freshman year amount to give students and their families some financial certainty. Students would receive tuition waivers for classes not available in the four-year span.

My bill is critical to controlling the rising costs of higher education. For every extra year that CSU students remain on campus, they pay as much as $26,000 in tuition, books and living expenses, according to the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Students and their families will cumulatively save hundreds of millions of dollars every year through on-time graduation. Equally important, my bill will free up seats for new students, save the state money and get qualified students into the workforce sooner.

Unquestionably, CSU leaders are committed to student success and have instituted a number of reforms to improve graduation rates. But there is room for improvement in accommodating students who want to finish in four years.

Some CSU campuses have already shown in pilot programs similar to the California Promise that a focus on four-year graduation works. Students in the program at CSU San Bernardino have graduated on time at twice the rate of students overall. More than half the current participants are Pell Grant recipients and more than three-fourths are minority students. Underrepresented groups are taking part in programs at other campuses.

We have a duty to pave the way for on-time graduation. Let’s live up to the lofty aspirations of CSU students and give them a chance to reach their goal of getting out in four.

Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat, represents the 7th state Senate District. He can be contacted at steven.glazer@sen.ca.gov.

  Comments