The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Gator Pass
The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Amid a pandemic, graduation rates have yet to take a hit

SF State continues progress toward graduation goals set forth by the California State University Graduation Initiative 2025
Emily Curiel
The J. Paul Leonard Library remains empty due the COVID-19 outbreak at SF State on March 15, 2020. (Emily Curiel / Golden Gate Xpress)

Despite slow yet steady progress toward rising graduation rates in the California State University system, there are still significant graduation inequities found in SF State’s student body.

Even during the pandemic, SF State has seen increased graduation rates among nearly all freshmen and transfer students, which follows the overall graduation trend being reported by the CSU system. However, it still doesn’t look like SF State will reach the CSU’s goals by 2025, especially in reducing the opportunity gap between underrepresented minorities and non-underrepresented minorities.

“It is very likely that we are not going to meet our goal… but that is not the point,” said Sutee Sujitparapitaya, associate provost of Institutional Analytics. “It is not about how fast you get to the finish line, it is about how much you have helped students to graduate.”



SF State has adopted several areas of focus in the hopes of meeting this goal, such as improving first-year experience for freshman and greater course availability. One of its biggest priorities has been an overhaul of the advising system, transforming it from a reactive system to a proactive one.

These changes are in an effort to comply with the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, which began in 2015 as a 10-year goal across its 23 schools to raise graduation rates among undergraduate first-year students and transfer students. 

Using a grant secured pre-pandemic through the Stupski Foundation, a plan was set in motion to hire more advisors with a special focus on first-year students and students close to graduation. Beginning Fall 2020, all undeclared and first-year students were able to have an academic advisor assigned to them for the first time. 

Kimberly Altura, associate dean of undergraduate education and interim director of the Undergraduate Advising Center, said that although the transition to fully remote advising was daunting, the prior steps taken by SF State in moving some services online enabled the process to translate smoothly to a virtual platform. 

“So about 1,000 more advising appointments happened this January than happened last January… and I would like to think it’s because we’ve been so accessible and available to students,” Altura said. 

Along with the goal of rising graduation rates comes the goal of eliminating the opportunity gap between students of underrepresented minorities, which the CSU system identifies as American Indian, Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino students and non-underrepresented minorities, which includes all other students. 

“The opportunity gap is the most important part of the graduation initiative to me,” said Lori Beth Way, dean of Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning and co-chair of the Student Success and Graduation Initiative. “We should not be graduating our students at different rates. And if we are, that is not a problem of our students, but of the institution.”  

In 2018, the opportunity gap was measured at 7.9%, followed by a vast decrease in 2019 to 0.80%. However, in 2020 it leapt back up to 9.7%. 

To eliminate the opportunity gap between underrepresented minority students and non-underrepresented minority students, both groups would have to achieve the same graduation rate, which, according to Sujitparapitaya, is extremely challenging. This can be caused by both rates rising simultaneously with one at a more rapid rate.

“It is almost like a moon and star have to align,” Sujitparapitaya said.

In an effort to lessen the opportunity gap, as a part of the graduation initiative, SF State added the Black Unity Center, Dream Resource Center, along with the Queer and Trans Resource Center

Both Altura and Way said that student success initiatives are working alongside these centers to provide academic support in ways that feel inclusive. For example, in Fall 2020, a registration workshop hosted by Black advisors specifically for Black students was held in partnership with the Black Unity Center. 

Regarding the strategy needed to fully eliminate the opportunity gap, Way said, “We get there by doing better. I think by transforming our classrooms and our institution to not continue to be a bastion of white supremacy, to be frank.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Eve DeBord
Eve (she/her) is the campus editor for Xpress Newspaper. This is her last semester at SF State and she will be graduating with her B.A. in Journalism and minors in Queer Ethnic Studies, Criminal Justice and Philosophy. DeBord grew up in Oakland and was living in San Francisco prior to the pandemic, but has since moved to Humboldt County and live/work on a farm. In her free time when she is not tending to the animals or working on reporting a story DeBord loves hiking, bouldering and reading.
Emily Curiel
Emily lives life through a viewfinder. She has a hummingbird superstition and spends most of her down time playing the mobile app game called Two Dots, she’s sort of obsessed. She eats a lot of hamburgers and pets a lot of animals when she can. She’s a sucker for museums, sports, chocolate and anything artsy that’s hands on. Her career goal, to put it simple, as the great Warren Buffett said, is to find a job that she loves so she doesn’t have to work a day in her life. She wants to be a great photojournalist, who is well-paid, so she may be able to live comfortably with good health insurance. Emily wants to be able to enlighten society in a more positive way through her photographs and storytelling. Dorothea Lange once said, “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” This is what Emily wants to embody and hopes she can do so in the field of journalism. You can find more of her work here.

Comments (0)

All Golden Gate Xpress Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The Student News Site of San Francisco State University
Amid a pandemic, graduation rates have yet to take a hit