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Project Title:Graduation Rate InitiativeInstitution Name:California State University, Fresno Innovation Category:Student Success Project Director:Dennis L. Nef, AVP and Dean of Undergraduate StudiesContact Information:(559) 278-4468, dennisn@csufresno.eduWebsite:
Project Description:The Graduation Rate Initiative is part of a university-wide effort to increase the six-year graduation rate from 46% to 51% by 2015 and to cut in half the gap between the six-year graduation rate of underrepresented minorities compared to the non-minority population. Overseen by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Vice President for Student Affairs, the effort draws on the work of a broad-based (faculty, staff, students and administrators) Student Success Task Force (SSTF). 
Objectives:

By 2015, raise the six-year graduation rate:

  • For first-time full-time freshmen to 51%;
  • For underrepresented minority (URM) first-time full-time freshmen to 46%;
  • For  transfer students to 75%;
  • For underrepresented minority transfer students to73%. 
Outcomes:
  • Increased the  first-year retention rate for the Fall 2009 cohort  from 82% to 89%
  • Established milestones for freshman and sophomore advising and tracked student participation; developed ‘support-net’ referral program
  • Engaged in course redesign and faculty development to improve student writing and critical thinking and reduce the number of high failure rate courses 
Challenges/Problems Encountered:
  • Because first semester GPA is the major determinant of student success, students with low first term GPAs were required to enroll in an academic success course their second term. Students were resistant but those who enrolled were twice as likely to return.
  • New advising milestones required students to meet with advisors. Advisors had to be brought on board as it was a significant increase in workload.
  • Course redesign and faculty development efforts focused on incorporating technology to provide feedback to students. There was some resistance from departments and faculty. 
Evaluation Approach:The Student Success Task Force identified outcomes along with milestones for their achievement, methods of measurement to be used, and offices responsible for implementation and evaluation. The office of Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning works closely with the SSTF to assess all aspects of the program. Reporting occurs monthly at the SSTF meetings and periodically to the President and the Chancellor’s office.   
Potential for Replication:The Student Success Task Force, appointed by the President,  had been operating for seven years when this project began and was already committed to improving student success. With two vice presidents at the helm and the support of the president, it was well positioned to move initiatives forward. This kind of top level support would be crucial for replication. 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John Welty , Presidentjohnw@csufresno.edu
(559) 278-2324
Date Published: Monday, April 4, 2011