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Graduation smiles are arriving on time more often for Sacramento State students, according to figures associated with the University’s “Finish in Four”/“Through in Two” initiative. The program and improvements in associated graduation rates earned national recognition. Photo by Jessica Vernone
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Graduation Initiatives’ Success Earns National Attention and Honor


Anita Fitzhugh

“The ‘Finish in Four’ and ‘Through in Two’ campaigns at Sacramento State continue to demonstrate exceptional progress in inspiring students to complete their degrees in a timely manner." - Graduation "czar" Jim Dragna.


Jim Dragna, Sac State’s graduation “czar,” has seen the “Finish In Four” and “Through In Two” campaigns gain success – and national recognition. Photo by Andrea Price

A significant university initiative to put and keep incoming students on track to a timely graduation is succeeding—and that success has been noticed across the country.

The “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” campaigns are having such an impact that the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) recently honored Sacramento State with an Excellence in Innovation Award, recognizing its successful strategy to increase graduation rates and eliminate the achievement gap. 

 “Finish in Four and “Through in Two” are part of California State University’s Graduation Initiative 2025, aiming to increase the number of incoming freshman and transfer students earning a bachelor’s degree in four years. 

Participating incoming freshman and transfer students pledge to take 15 units each semester—or 30 units per year, including summer classes—and in turn are provided academic and administrative support that has included the addition of new faculty members, hundreds of new course selections and thousands of classroom seats. 

Jim Dragna, executive director of University Initiatives and Student Services but more widely known as the graduation “czar,” says financial incentives also add to the campaigns’ success with reports showing that students who graduate in four years instead of six save more money, earn more income and graduate with less debt. 


“The ‘Finish in Four’ and ‘Through in Two’ campaigns at Sacramento State continue to demonstrate exceptional progress in inspiring students to complete their degrees in a timely manner,” Dragna says. 

“In 2017-18, approximately 50 percent of first-year students successfully undertook 30 credit hours in an effort to stay on track to graduate in four years, compared to only 38 percent in 2015-16.” 

Transfer students are achieving similar results, he says. In 2018, a record 37 percent of transfer students successfully completed their degrees in two years, an increase of 10 percentage points over 2016. 

The AASCU Excellence in Innovation Awards recognize initiatives that have top-level administrative support, connect with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda, contribute to significant institutional improvements or programming, and are grounded in research and best practices. 


Anita Fitzhugh


Anita Fitzhugh, at Sac State since 2015, is public information office and writer. She has more than 20 years of experience as a broadcast journalist/producer and PR consultant. Anita often can be found enjoying the American River Parkway or on a new adventure with her family.