This September, invitations were sent out to students, staff and faculty to form the first ever campus task force at SF State that will identify barriers to success for first-year students and develop a plan to combat student attrition.
“Research shows that freshmen student success in the first year of college is one of the best predictors of on-time graduation,” Luoluo Hong, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management said in an email.
A study by the Student Success and Graduation Initiative Task Force shows 22 percent of first-year students, both incoming freshman and transfers, drop out within their first year at SF State and an additional 12 percent drop out in their second year.
The University has employed the Foundations of Excellence model developed by the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. The project coincides with the systemwide Graduation Initiative 2025 from the CSU Chancellor’s Office to reach the goal of increasing six-year graduation rates from the current 51 percent to the 2025 goal of 69 percent. Funded by the state Chancellor’s Office, the FOE project officially launches Oct. 31 with a campus visit from Gardner himself.
“Programs like FOE help build institutional capacity of a university to be more effective in promoting a vibrant, engaging first-year experience that enhances student persistence and learning,” Hong said in an email.
The initiative’s most recent analysis of graduation rates shows 51 percent of first-time freshmen who enrolled in 2009 graduated within six years and an additional 8.3 percent of students graduated from another four-year institution in the same time. Of the 34 percent of students that leave SF State in their first two years, less than one-quarter attain a degree elsewhere.
“It is in students’ interests to stay and complete their degrees here, and it’s in our interest to communicate that to them,” said Jennifer Summit, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Impediments to on time graduation and campus bureaucracy are leading factors as to why students leave without graduating, Summit said. The SSGI task force discovered a large number of students desired a stronger sense of community on campus, Summit said.
“Not all of our students feel like they are genuinely part of the life of the university, and we all lose when that’s the case,” Summit said. “When students feel like they are not part of it, then we are losing their distinct contribution to our life as a community.”
Kari Putz, a freshmen pre-psychology student said at least half the responsibility of finding out where one fits in on campus is on the student. Eager to branch out after an adolescence filled with small private schools, she rushed a sorority and made numerous friends in her first few weeks on campus.
“You have to be social and open to new experiences,” Putz said. “You really have to put yourself out there to meet people and create connections if you want to have a quality college experience.”
The FOE task force will be split into smaller factions that will focus on criticals area of student engagement, Summit said. The end goal is to orient services, classes and the campus community in a way that brings first-year students onboard and is responsive to their developmental needs during this time in their lives.
“I think that we’ve made the University unnecessarily bureaucratic for students, and we need to take responsibility for creating the kind of environment that welcomes students in the way that we really intend to,” Summit said. “This is a university that is deeply committed to the well-being of its students. We don’t always show that in our student-facing bureaucracy.”