Graduation Rates Keep Climbing Under Key Initiatives


Cynthia Hubert

“Generations of low expectations are being shattered. Students now believe that they can achieve this, and they are doing it.”

More students than ever are graduating in four years from Sacramento State, but the University’s graduation czar is far from satisfied. 

James Dragna wants Sac State to smash CSU’s goals for the campus by 2025, the final year of the system’s graduation initiative. 

“I believe it will happen,” said Dragna, who leads the Office of University Initiatives and Student Success. 

Already, Sac State is making major strides. 

The number of students who are graduating in what is considered ideal “on time” fashion has climbed from 9 percent in 2016 to 21 percent this year. Dragna said he hopes that, by 2025, Sac State’s four-year graduation rate will be about 40 percent, surpassing the CSU’s goal of 33 percent for the University. 

The efforts are part of CSU’s push to boost graduation rates among incoming freshmen – “Finish In Four” – and transfer students – “Through In Two.” 

As part of the initiative, participating incoming freshman and transfer students pledge to take 15 units each semester, or 30 units per year including summer classes, and are provided academic and administrative support toward that goal. 

All Sac State students are benefiting from expanded resources such as additional faculty members, hundreds of new course selections, thousands of classroom seats, summer scholarships, counseling, and electronic platforms to plan classes and track progress, Dragna said. 

Since “Finish in Four” launched in the summer of 2016, Sac State’s graduation rates have steadily increased. Last year, the four-year graduation rate was 14.7 percent for first-time freshmen, the highest rate in three decades. 

In 2019, rates improved among all categories of students, including Pell Grant recipients and those who were the first in their families to attend college. 

Transfer students also have made significant gains under the system. This year, 43 percent of Sac State transfer students earned their undergraduate degrees in two years, compared with 27 percent in 2016. 

Dragna attributes the increases in graduation rates to a “culture change” that has transformed how students, parents, and faculty think about the importance of completing undergraduate degrees more quickly. 

“Generations of low expectations are being shattered,” he said. “Students now believe that they can achieve this, and they are doing it.” 


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.