Strength of Sac State's grad rates, access and equity advances draws praise from U.S. Department of Education
August 10, 2022
Sacramento State's successes in uplifting traditionally underserved students has garnered the attention of the U.S. Secretary of Education, who invited President Robert S. Nelsen and three other leaders from the CSU to an education summit in Washington, D.C.
Education Secretary Miguel A. Cardona, in his invitation to Nelsen, said the Aug. 11 gathering reflects the Biden administration’s commitment to “a new vision of college excellence,” one that focuses on “inclusivity and equity rather than exclusivity and privilege.”
Airline travel disruptions prevented Nelsen from attending the event in person, but he watched Cardona's address via livestream.
Also scheduled to attend the summit were interim CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester, CSU Dominguez Hills President Willie J. Hagan, and CSU Fullerton President Framrose Virjee. Additionally, more than two dozen college presidents from outside the CSU, as well as other college administrators and experts from across the nation, are invited.
Education Undersecretary James Kvaal, in a visit to Sac State in March, called the University a model for other institutions as they work to improve graduation rates and close so-called equity gaps for students of color.
“Your institution serves as an example for hundreds of other colleges across the country,” Cardona wrote in his invitation to Nelsen. “We hope to capture your experiences and lessons learned during the summit and ultimately share some of those findings with other institutions.”
Through a wide range of programs and policies, Sac State has seen a 187% improvement in four-year graduation rates since 2016. More than 26% of Sac State students now graduate within four years, compared to 9% in 2016. Sac State also has dramatically reduced equity gaps, which appear when grad rates for traditionally underserved minority students lag behind others. The University aims to eliminate the gaps within three years.
Nathan Dietrich, the University’s associate vice president for Public Affairs and Advocacy, said Sac State “is at the cutting edge of what the Biden administration is trying to achieve for all students,” particularly those who have lower incomes or who come from minority backgrounds.
“Our success reflects hard work from a lot of people at Sac State, and what we are doing is being recognized nationally,” he said.
During the summit, Nelsen had planned to share with other participants some of the formulas for the University’s successes. More students than ever indicate they want to graduate on time and believe they can by utilizing tools Sac State provides. That includes help getting the courses they want and need, peer tutoring and mentoring, and expanded grants and other incentives to allow them to take summer courses.
Summit participants also were to discuss the transfer process, basic needs, use of data, and career pathways, among other topics.
“I am proud to be joining other higher education leaders who are focused on developing strategies for truly equitable student success,” Nelsen said in accepting Cardona's invitation. The gathering is an opportunity to “share what we have learned at Sacramento State, and to learn from other leaders who are committed to this work.”
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