California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) was recognized for its efforts in outperforming most similar U.S. institutions in helping students stay on track and graduate in a major national report released in April by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB).
Titled “Promoting a Culture of Student Success: How Colleges and Universities Are Improving Degree Completion,” the report profiles 15 four-year public colleges and universities nationwide whose success in raising graduation rates may provide other institutions with practices and strategies that work to help more students succeed.
“These institutions are helping many students complete college degrees who otherwise often do not graduate,” said Cheryl Blanco, SREB vice president for special projects, who co-wrote and researched the report with consultant Paul Bradley. “The strategies they’re using can be adopted by other colleges and universities, and will guide state policy decisions to improve degree completion across the nation.”
All of the institutions in “Promoting a Culture of Student Success” outperform similar colleges and universities by having relatively high graduation rates based on criteria developed by SREB. The report also outlines common approaches and strategies that these institutions use to boost student success that would be helpful for other institutions, university systems and states to use.
The study team used The Education Trust’s College Results Online database to select colleges and universities that met specific criteria in 2006: a six-year graduation rate of at least 45 percent; a median SAT score no higher than 1050; a proportion of students receiving Pell Grants of at least 25 percent; and Carnegie Classification as a public baccalaureate or master’s institution.
CSULB was profiled specifically with its 2006 graduation rate of 48 percent, 1,015 median SAT score and 33.9 percent Pell Grant recipients. In particular, the report cited the efforts of current president F. King Alexander (with his “Graduation Begins Today” motto) and former president Robert Maxson (with his emphasis on student success and branding) in championing degree completion at the university.
“With nearly 38,000 students in the 2007-2008 academic year, CSULB is a large institution that increased its six-year graduation rate by more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2006,” the report points out. “In 2007, the rate jumped an additional 7 points to 54 percent…accomplished…with the same high percentage of Pell [Grant] recipients and a majority of first-year students entering [who are] deficient in CSU standards for math and English.”
Among the support programs and/or campus policies mentioned in the report as contributing to the campus’ success were:
- The Office of Academic Advisement, which features three mandatory advisement sessions for all incoming freshmen, moving progressively from discussions on registration to selection of majors, and transfer students who have two mandatory sessions;
- “Graduation Green Light,” a formal initiative at CSULB, contacts former students who left just short of graduation and invites them back to explore options for degree completions. To date, the program has more than 500 graduates to its credit. It also sparked another program, Destination Graduation, where the record of every junior is reviewed, and those off-track are urged to come in for individual counseling;
- College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which works with students who normally have a low graduation rate. To date, however, this group has a 90 percent continuation rate as a result of the program;
- The Education Opportunity Program, a large initiative serving nearly 2,500 participants. It helps at-risk students achieve degree completion at higher rates than the campus average with special advising, mentoring and tutoring;
“This report further validates the ongoing efforts of our faculty and staff to ensure that all of our students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, achieve their education goals,” said Alexander. “To be one of a small group of 15 singled out as national examples is a tribute to the entire CSULB family.”
In conclusion, the report noted: “A common theme emerged in interviews with students, faculty, staff and administrators: the university’s overall focus on graduation. While the CSU system has emphasized degree completion for many years and monitors each university’s progress, CSULB stresses more than just the numbers. As one person on campus said, ‘Completion serves as the standard used to weigh every significant decision.’ Another added, ‘There is no one thing here, no magic bullet, but rather a mosaic effect that gets everyone — from senior administrators to the grounds crew — to understand their role in helping students graduate.’”