CSU's Plan to Help Students Graduate Faster
March 30, 2005 4:57 PM
The California State University system wants students to walk the path leading to graduation a little quicker.
On March 18, in a 40-minute teleconference for CSU student press, Chancellor Charles Reed told a group of six student reporters that the 23-campus CSU system is not graduating students fast enough.
“We need to have a much higher percentage of our students complete their baccalaureate degrees within the six-year time that is measured,” Reed said.
Roughly 54 percent of all first-time freshmen that entered the CSU system for fall classes in 1997 had graduated by the spring of 2003. At SF State, just 38.5 percent had earned their degrees. Reed said he intends to improve those numbers.
Reed said officials are considering requiring students to choose a major by their sophomore year, while at the same time beefing up the advising system. Students can’t change their major before they’ve selected one, Reed said.
Reed also directed university officials to reevaluate degree requirements and if possible limit the number units required for graduation to 120 for as many programs as possible.
At SF State, the average student may not graduate in time because they are busier with other responsibilities, said Helen Goldsmith, SF State’s associate dean of undergraduate studies. More students at the university are also likely to need extra remedial classes in English and math, she said.
CSU statistics released this month indicated that just 63 percent of this year’s CSU freshmen class were prepared for college level math courses and just 53 percent were proficient enough to take their first college level English course.
Students who are unqualified to take their freshmen math and English classes often find themselves taking one or more remedial classes to raise their skills.
But for other students, just getting the classes they need can be a problem, Goldsmith said.
“We’re trying to make sure students have access to courses, but its difficult to figure out what’s needed,” she said.
Tracking student demand isn’t an exact science, Goldsmith said.
At SF State the university is short on instructors, according to several people interviewed for this story.
Reed promised to hire more faculty and put to use a new student management system that will help the CSU track student demand and need for required classes. Almost $60 million of next year’s proposed CSU budget is slated to be used to hire faculty and support instruction throughout the CSU next year, Reed said.
Even with promises to hire more instructors, Mitch Turitz, SF State’s California Faculty Association chapter president, said SF State isn’t hiring faculty fast enough. Instead, they’re increasing class sizes and overworking existing instructors, he said.
Improving student advising services are a large part of the chancellor’s plan to speed students toward graduation.
The CSU plans to reallocate resources to improve student advising services making the path to graduation crystal clear, he said. Ideally, during their first two years, the CSU would like students to take the complete “60 credit hours,” Reed said. Those 60 credits would consist of required general education courses and necessary prerequisites for their major, leaving them with only another 60 units to graduation.
Brett Smith, the director of SF State’s undergraduate advising center, agreed with Reed that a significant number of students are unclear about some of the requirements needed to graduate. Some students, he said, are fearful about the quality of advice they are given and there exists a real "disconnection" between the people giving advice and the students receiving it, he said.
Reed also said that the CSU will be working closely with California’s community college and high school systems to ensure that students who enter the CSU are better prepared for the rigors of university life.
One of the tools the CSU system will use to educate potential students is a colorful, multi-language poster, printed in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean that will be prominently displayed in high schools. This poster will show the CSU system’s recommendation on the courses needed to succeed.
“What we’re asking them to do is that during their 12th grade (year), instead of wasting it, messing around, getting a job, doing nothing, they better take algebra II, geometry, trigonometry," said Reed. "If they do that, they’ll be prepared to come to us."
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