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Student success effort fund aims to increase graduation rates

Programs sit on seats in Moby Arena.
Programs fill the seats reserved for graduates at Moby Arena before a graduation ceremony begins May 13, 2018. (Collegian file photo)

The Colorado State University System Board of Governors decided to invest $11 million to close student equity gaps and increase student success rates.

The CSU Office of the Registrar presented student success data from the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness that said, “There is about a 5 percentage point difference (equity gap) in persistence rates for racially minoritized students compared to non-racially minoritized students.”

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In addition to equity gaps, CSU has identified issues with student graduation rates. “Typically about 15% of first-year students leave before their second year,” the registrar’s office said. “This fall, that is about 600 first-time students that started in fall 2020 and didn’t come back for their second year.”

These equity gaps and attrition rates can cause problems for students down the road. 

“We’re really focusing on the premise that students need to graduate,” said CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen. “If students start college, and they don’t complete college and they walk away without a college degree, they won’t have the opportunities to pursue the jobs that will help them to be successful, not only in their career but to have a fulfilling career.” 

Pedersen also said groups affected by these equity gaps include racial minorities, Federal Pell Grant students and first-generation students.

According to student success data from the CSU Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness, 70% of the general student population graduates within six years, but when it comes to these groups experiencing equity gaps, the graduation rate is about 60%, meaning there is a 10-point gap between groups.

We’ve asked each associate dean to pick at least one high-fail-rate course and to pilot an intervention to try and see how they can provide more support for the students to be more successful- CSU Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen

“We’re really focusing on why are those populations of students leaving at a higher rate and not graduating, compared to the rest of the students,” Pedersen said.

According to Pedersen, $3 million will be used for financial aid and the rest will be split up among five different initiatives: advising, curricular support and reform, a student success dashboard to help identify equity gaps for specific courses, student experience and culture and a student support group.

The advising initiative will be led by Collaborative for Student Achievement Executive Director Gaye DiGregorio and will include advisors from each college on campus.

“These are the academic success coordinators as well as professional advisors, and they have a targeted goal of meeting with every first-year student,” Pedersen said. “The second piece is they’re trying to identify early alerts that would indicate a student is struggling … so that we can intervene early.”

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The curricular support and reform group will be focused on high-fail-rate courses in various colleges and will be led by Kelly Long, vice provost for Undergraduate Affairs.

“We’ve asked each associate dean to pick at least one high-fail-rate course and to pilot an intervention to try and see how they can provide more support for the students to be more successful,” Pedersen said.

The third group, focused on the student success dashboard, will examine course failure and success rates based on student groups to identify how to eliminate equity gaps. While CSU has always provided financial aid, this portion of the student success effort will focus on “coming up with very specific proposals on how to target this additional financial aid to the students that need it the most,” Pedersen said.

The fourth group, which focuses on student experience and culture, will take each student’s unique environment into account and determine what additional support to offer.

Group five, the student support group, will focus on “students who have been identified in their admissions profile as needing additional support,” Pedersen said. “That group is trying to come up with really targeted recommendations on what (it) is that support students need.”

Some initiatives have already been put in place, such as an increased number of math tutors in the residence halls. CSU has also increased research opportunities for undergraduate students to help them get more engaged in their majors.

Pedersen hopes to create a program to reach out to students who withdraw from CSU and identify why they left and also wants to create student focus groups to better support them.

“I’m really hopeful that we can really find some successful models that will work, and I think the student voice is one that I’m really excited and anxious to get some input on also,” Pedersen said.

Jordan Mahaffey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @_mahaffeyjordan.

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