Fresno State aims to boost graduation rates

California State University, Fresno, plans to introduce programs and strengthen others as part of a systemwide initiative to improve graduation rates.

At a meeting Wednesday in Long Beach, California State University trustees announced a new campaign to raise the overall six-year undergraduate graduation rate from 46% to 54% by 2016.

CSU also plans to work on improving completion rates for minorities.

Each of the system's 23 campuses have developed individual plans to increase the number of students who earn degrees. Those plans are still being finalized, but some skeptics wonder how the CSU can boost graduation rates while budget woes have forced campuses to cut classes and instructors.

At Fresno State, about 48% of freshmen graduate in six years, according to campus statistics.

The university's improvement plan involves connecting students more closely to advisers, research projects and support systems such as mentors and tutors.

In part, students will be required to meet with an adviser in their first year. Paul Oliaro, vice president for student affairs, said the advising session should help ensure that students stay on track and make sound decisions about academic schedules.

"The earlier the advising, the better," he said. Faculty and others also will work to identify and get help for students who are performing poorly.

About 200 freshmen who struggled last fall were notified this month that they must take a new class this spring designed to improve time management and other critical study skills, Oliaro said.

William Covino, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said keeping students engaged with research and mentors also should help retention rates.

The university is working to expand opportunities for students to participate in research projects, he said.

Oliaro said students should understand that "they matter and that their success matters."

But, he added, "much of the responsibility is theirs."