By Cynthia Hubert
Graduation rates at Sacramento State continue to rise, even as students and faculty members adjust to major changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preliminary data show that the University’s four-year graduation rate jumped to 21.9% this year, up from 8.8% in 2016, when Sac State initiated its “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” campaigns.
Gains occurred across the board, including among Black, Hispanic and first-generation students, said graduation czar James Dragna. The two-year graduation rate for transfer students, which was 27% in 2016, also has been dramatically improving, holding steady this year at about 46%.
The successes placed Sac State in elite company as one of four universities throughout the country that were named as finalists for a national award recognizing institutions that use innovative approaches to improve graduation rates.
On Nov. 10, Northern Arizona University was named winner of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities 2020 Degree Completion Award. Sac State, Kent State University and University of Wisconsin-Madison were the other finalists. The four universities were nominated for the honor because they “made critical strides in boosting completion” and changing the lives of students without sacrificing educational quality, according to the sponsoring organization.
The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities is a research, policy and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to the advancement of public universities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The association’s advocacy arm works with Congress to advance federal policies that strengthen public universities and benefit the students they serve, according to the organization.
The University is grateful for the national recognition it is receiving for its efforts, said Dragna.
“I’m proud and happy that we saw graduation rates rise even during these difficult times,” Dragna said. “I’m very pleased, but we expect to do even better in the future. I believe graduation rates will continue to go up.”
Sac State’s graduation gains have been achieved through a “culture change” that has transformed how the campus community views the importance of completing undergraduate degrees more quickly, Dragna said. Faculty, staff, and administrators now believe that all students can achieve, even those who face significant cultural, language and financial barriers, he said.
The University’s successes have allowed thousands of students to enter the workforce more quickly, saving individuals and the government millions of dollars, Dragna said.
As part of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, Sac State and other campuses have added thousands of high-demand courses that are necessary for graduation, and eliminated remedial courses that do not earn credits. The University now plans and recommends courses for freshmen based on their areas of interest, placing them on a path toward timely graduation.
The CSU has assigned Sac State a goal of graduating 30% of its students in four years by 2025.
Dragna said that, even with the pivot to virtual learning and other obstacles imposed by the pandemic, Sac State expects to exceed the mark.
“Our students continue to demonstrate their determination to finish their degrees in a timely manner even in the most demanding of times,” he said.