$50 million student success initiative will address bottleneck courses, graduation rates

Jonathan Ayestas

California State University Chancellor Timothy White is planning to commit $50 million to provide services for the 23 campuses that have been neglected or suffered cuts from the past years following the recession to improve graduation rates and retention rates.

White said the funding will go towards hiring more faculty, enhancing student advising, increasing the number of online courses, expanding technology and reducing overcrowded classrooms caused by bottleneck courses.

Once funding from the $50 million arrives, Sacramento State Provost Frederika Harmsen will be involved in the decision process.

“As the new provost, I am committed to providing a high quality education to our students and preparing them not only for the workforce, but as engaged citizens who can make a difference to our region and beyond,” Harmsen said.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Sheree Meyer said the CSU is also focused on increasing degree completion for students who are coming into four-year universities and transferring from community colleges. Incentives to continue pursuing undergraduate degrees through applied research, internships, service learning and study abroad programs are also being considered.

“These key areas are designed to advance student achievement and high quality degree completion,” Harmsen said.

CSU Director of Public Affairs Mike Uhlenkamp said the CSU system’s mission is to educate the workforce in California. One way he said to help further education the workforce was by increasing interaction between student and faculty, encouraging them to become more involved on campus.

“The way which would be most effective is by increasing the number of graduates and also by decreasing the graduating rate of students,” Uhlenkamp said.

One issue Harmsen said she noticed was student access to filled classes required to graduate, also known as bottleneck courses.

“We are planning to add more sections of bottleneck courses and will address space needs so we can offer more laboratory sections,” Harmsen said.

The commitment was announced January in White’s State of the CSU address, which Uhlenkamp said went over the plan to increase graduates over the next 12 to 15 years.

Meyer said no specific programs can be addressed until a call to submit proposals is allowed.

One of the programs that is expected to be addressed upon receiving funds from White’s commitment is the Graduation Initiative, which is intended to make the graduation process easier.

“At Sacramento State, we have implemented a comprehensive graduation initiative with the goal of providing a variety of services and resources to help students to succeed in their classes and to raise the freshman graduation rate,” Harmsen said.

Meyer said a way to engage students starting their second year of school is by providing incentives, such as part time job fairs and posting the Dean’s List for public view.

Current issues according to Meyer also include increasing the retention rate. One way she suggested was with a graduation channel link which would be accessible on the Sac State portal, informing students what to do next when they have reached a certain amount of units.

“At our current levels, we are going to be 1 million graduates short of what’s necessary for the workforce,” Uhlenkamp said. “We’re trying to do our part as the largest system of the state.”

White said the economic workforce requires more graduates to meet the economic needs of the state.

“California faces a shortage of 1 million college graduates by 2025 that threatens our economic well-being and quality of life,” White said. “California State University has a critical role in closing the college skills gap and providing a better future for all Californians.”