SF State Among Slowest in CSUs to Graduate
February 9, 2005 4:17 PM
SF State students take longer to earn their bachelors’ degrees than most students nationally and within the California State University system, according to statistics released by Education Trust, a nonprofit national education organization.
Of the 1,732 full-time freshmen that enrolled at SF State in the fall semester of 1997, 38.5 percent graduated by August 2003, netting the university the fifth lowest graduation rate in the CSU’s 23-campus system. Within the same six-year period, nearly 44 percent of all college students nationally and 54 percent of all CSU students earned their bachelor's degrees.
But campus administrators say the issue is more complex than the numbers suggest.
“CSU campuses differ considerably, and a comparison to the overall average may not be very meaningful,” said SF State Dean of Undergraduate Studies Daniel Buttlaire, in an e-mail response.
More than three out of four student have jobs, according to a university survey taken during class registration. And more than 25 percent of those students said they work full-time while attending classes. Many students do end up getting the degrees, but for some it just takes a little longer.
It would be best to compare SF State’s graduation rate to other large CSU campuses within urban settings, Buttlaire said. But even then, a comparison of the graduation rates of the seven largest CSU campuses ranks SF State second to last, trailing Cal State Fullerton’s 47.6 percent graduation rate by more then 9 percent.
Helen Goldsmith, associate dean of undergraduate studies at SF State, said typically the CSU campuses outperforming SF State have fewer freshmen requiring remedial math and English classes.
Cal State Fullerton and San Diego State University, two of the CSU’s most successful large campuses in graduating students, awarded 47.6 percent and 44 percent of their students a baccalaureate degree within six years. And each had fewer freshmen than SF State requiring remedial courses in 2003, according to the most current statistics available.
At Cal State Fullerton, more then 70 percent of freshmen were qualified to take college level math. And 80 percent of San Diego State University’s freshmen entered college without needing remediation, but at SF State, just 56.7 percent of incoming freshman were eligible to take a college-level math course.
Cal State Fullerton and San Diego State University also had fewer students requiring remedial English than SF State. Less then half of Cal State Fullerton’s students and 30 percent of San Diego State University’s students were required to take extra English classes. At SF State, a little more then half of all freshmen in 2003 needed remedial English courses.
Goldsmith said she believes that students who arrive better prepared for college-level courses graduate sooner.
The Early Assessment Program, a collaborative project between the CSU, the California State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education, aims to identify deficiencies in a college-bound student’s readiness for college courses while they're still in high school and have a chance to improve.
At SF State, freshmen students are being provided with more opportunities for support and guidance. More freshmen are attending orientation classes and receiving help in registering for their first semester courses. Additionally some freshmen are enrolling in smaller, linked classes comprised of two courses taught to the exact same students.
An overwhelming number of students in these classes make friends, feel connected and get required support, Goldsmith said.
David Spence, the CSU executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer, said in a press release that a 54 percent overall graduation rate systemwide, although good, is not high enough.
“We believe that to maintain the enormous impact that CSU has had on the California economy, the CSU will have to provide even higher numbers of citizens and workers with baccalaureate degrees,” he said.
SF State has just formed a task force of administrators and members of the Academic Senate to find ways to improve the university’s graduation rate. They’ll be evaluating SF State to see what factors prevent students from graduating in a timely manner and what can be done about it.
When asked why some students don’t graduate, Goldsmith said that for some, “life just gets in the way,” but “the persistence of some students is amazing,” she said. “Things may get in the way, but they don’t let them get in the way of their dreams of a college education.”
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