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Sac State graduation rates continue to soar, closing in on CSU goals

Sacramento State's 25.8% four-year graduation rate approaches the CSU's goal of a 30% rate by 2025. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

About 26% of 2021 Sacramento State graduates earned their degree in four years, a significant jump from last year and a reflection of the University’s continuing efforts to help students graduate efficiently.

Preliminary figures from the Office of University Initiatives and Student Success place the four-year graduation rate at 25.8%, compared to 21.9% in 2020. The latest figures represent a dramatic increase from 2016, when Sac State launched its “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” graduation initiatives. That year, the four-year graduation rate was about 9%.

The University also continues to make gains in closing the “opportunity gap” for students of color. The number, which reflects the difference in graduation rates between traditionally underserved minority students and others, shrunk to 4.1% this year from 7.6% in 2020.

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro, who this week is scheduled to make his first official visit to Sac State, said he was pleased with the University’s efforts and those of all of the system’s 23 campuses.

“I’m extremely proud of the hard work that President (Robert S.) Nelsen and the entire Hornet community have done to help our talented and diverse students meet their academic goals,” Castro said. “Graduation rates are at all-time highs, and there is much to celebrate,” although the task is far from complete.

“We won’t rest until every student has the equal opportunity to earn the lifelong and life-transforming benefits of a Cal State degree.”

“These are systemic changes, changes in the culture of the University. Students believe they can earn their degrees, and they’re doing it." - James Dragna, executive director for University Initiatives and Student Success

Sac State graduation rates have risen each year since the University began implementing changes as part of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025. Among other things, the University has added thousands of high-demand courses that are necessary for graduation, while eliminating remedial courses that do not earn credits. In addition, under the Hornet Launch program, the University plans and recommends courses for first-year students based on their areas of interest, placing them on a clear path toward graduation.

Programs similar to the Hornet Launch model will soon be implemented across the CSU system.

Sac State continues to approach the CSU’s Graduation 2025 goal of a 30% four-year graduation rate for the campus. The University already has exceeded the CSU goal of graduating 38% of its two-year transfer students by 2025. The graduation rate for those students stands at 44.6%. Sac State has its highest six-year graduation rate ever, at 57.5%.

Graduation gains have occurred across the board at Sac State, including among Black, Latinx, and first-generation students, said James Dragna, executive director for University Initiatives and Student Success, who leads the campus’s graduation initiatives.

“Since 2016, our graduation numbers have been steadily and progressively increasing,” Dragna said. “This suggests that the rates are not dependent upon any specific cohorts of students. These are systemic changes, changes in the culture of the University. Students believe they can earn their degrees, and they’re doing it.

“I believe we are going to see even more acceleration of students moving through the University efficiently and effectively,” he said. “We are creating an institution that is removing barriers for all students and putting them on the road to a timely graduation.”

The gains have not come at the expense of quality education, Dragna said.

“In fact, we’re finding that the better the quality of the academic experience, the higher the graduation rates rise.”



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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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