California State University, Long Beach
Inside CSULB Logo

Graduation Rate Efforts Pay Off for Underrepresented Students

Published: April 15, 2010

With the recent federal policy emphasis aimed at improving college and university graduation rates led by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the recently launched system-wide “Graduation Initiative” announced by the California State University (CSU), public institutions throughout the nation are beginning to face a more advanced set of accountability standards than in the past.

For CSULB, graduation of students has been the primary objective over the last five years. In fact, when considering comparable public universities nationwide, CSULB’s progress in helping students move toward graduation places the university among the top degree producers in all student categories, especially among underrepresented minority groups.

As part of CSULB’s recently announced “Highly Valued Degree Initiative,” created in accordance with the CSU Graduation Initiative and to assess campus progress in its graduation efforts during recent years, national comparative data were reviewed with the results pointing to CSULB as among the nation’s top producers of degrees among underrepresented minority students.

Compared to similar public master’s institutions, CSULB’s recent gains in graduation rates are estimated to place the university among the top 10 percent of institutions nationally for all students, for underrepresented students, and for Latino, African-American, and white students. Also, CSULB ranked among the top 20 percent for Asian and Asian-American students.

“For over a decade, CSULB has doubled graduation rates and we have seen significant recent gains for many groups,” said David Dowell, CSULB vice provost and co-chair of the Highly Valued Degree Initiative. “We have seen a seven percent increase in our graduation rate for underrepresented students over two years, a six percent increase for Latino students, and a six percent increase for African-Americans. These increases, achieved in a very short time, are indicators of how the campus is moving forward to assist students in earning their degrees.”

CSULB analysts also considered the most recent national data and trends and estimated how recent gains will place the university compared to institutions that are similar as well as a broader sample of all public master’s universities. “While our earlier graduation rates were above average, it appears that recent gains significantly advance CSULB in comparison to similar institutions,” said Dowell.

Considering data for public master’s degree granting public universities that qualify as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), CSULB’s current graduation rates place the institution among the best in the nation for graduating Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American, and African-American students. CSULB ranked second in the nation among reporting HSI universities in graduating Hispanic/Latino, and Asian-American students, while ranking third in the nation in the same category for African-American students.

CSULB’s current graduation rates also reflect positively when compared with similar bachelor’s, master’s and research public universities with at least 30 percent of students receiving Pell Grants and comparable per student expenditures. Recent gains place CSULB in the top six percent of these reporting institutions, 14 percent above the national average, and in the top five percent of universities in terms of graduating under-represented minority students.

“The increases are the result of a focus to improve our students’ graduation rates and hard work on the part of university faculty and staff to benefit students,” according to Lynn Mahoney, associate vice president, undergraduate studies and co-chair of the Highly Valued Degree Initiative.

“Key to our progress have been strengthening advising programs for students, expansion of faculty mentoring, establishment of learning communities for students in specific disciplines, support programs for underrepresented minority students like our HSI programs, curriculum improvements, innovation in the use of technology and numerous other student academic support programs,” Mahoney said. “Another important aid has been our Graduation Greenlight program, which helps students stay on track as they move toward graduation.”

”When comparing Cal State Long Beach with similar universities, two years ago we were already in the top fifth nationally in the graduation rate for underrepresented minority students. In the two years since, our graduation rate increased more than six and a half percent,” Dowell said. “Our anticipation is that this advancement will move CSULB into the top 10 institutions nationally among our peers in terms of graduating students among these populations.”

In commenting on the campus’ improvement, CSULB President F. King Alexander stated, ”This has been a campus-wide priority involving everyone. When you take into account that our campus ranks among the best in the nation in all these student categories, it is easy to say that there are only a few places in the nation where students from all socioeconomic and ethnic classes actually stand a better chance to graduate than right here at CSULB. However, we are not finished and must continue improving for the sake of our students, including reducing any completion gaps that exist between student groups.”

Information about CSULB’s Highly Valued Degree Initiative as well as graduation rate data comparisons is available.