|SFSU charts road map to graduation|
April 10, 2006
The road to a college degree can be interrupted by things ranging from outside employment to confusion over required courses. What traditionally took four years of full-time study has gradually stretched into six or more years of part-time and intermittent attendance for some students. As a result, fewer new students can be admitted.
"Institutions across the country are struggling with this," said Jo Volkert, associate vice president of enrollment planning and management. "We are not alone."
Responding to a resolution issued by the California State University Board of Trustees to improve graduation rates, in January 2005 Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John Gemello appointed a Facilitating Graduation Task Force. Comprised of SFSU faculty, students, staff and administrators, the group conducted student polls, surveys and focus groups to assess the problems and make recommendations for improvement.
Thirty-two percent of survey responders said that the need to work while going to school slowed their education. Other reasons for taking more than four years to complete a degree were financial pressures or family obligations. Half said that they had to take one or more semesters off.
"These are things we cannot rectify," said task force member Caran Colvin, professor of psychology and chair of the Academic Senate. "But we found that there were plenty of things we could change or improve."
One solution the task force identified was to place more emphasis on faculty-student advising. "We looked at getting rid of barriers and finding more efficient ways for students to access our advising resources," said Helen Goldsmith, associate dean of undergraduate studies.
"In the past we gave students the option of taking care of their academics at their own pace," said Brett Smith, director of the Undergraduate Advising Center. "But when we asked the students, a third of them said they thought it would be a good idea to require a visit to an adviser each semester."
More structured advising will help students maintain focus and perspective, noted David Meredith, chair of mathematics and former chair of the academic policies committee. "I think students lose a sense of personal commitment to themselves and the University if they never have a personal conversation with someone on staff who can show them the big picture."
The task force will recommend that all students be required to complete a personal "road map to graduation," outlining what courses are necessary and when they will be taken. The task force will also oversee the development of online programs that provide a road map template and other help.
"We want SFSU students to have access to accurate and timely information 24/7," Volkert said.
Faculty members are working with the task force to produce course planners for each major that will help students complete their road maps.
"The task force has done an excellent job of identifying ways that San Francisco State can meet the CSU-wide goal of accelerating time to graduation," Provost Gemello said. "I look forward to working with the Academic Senate to implement the task force's plans."
Student body presidents David Abella and Chris Jackson also served on the task force.
"We were a very cohesive group," Goldsmith said. "It was easy to agree that we wanted to create a culture of graduation."
community is welcome to comment and ask questions about the task
at the "Facilitating Graduation Summit," from
1:45 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in the Rosa Parks Conference rooms
in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. For details, contact the Associated
Students Recruitment and Retention Center at (415) 405-4048 or visit
Associated Students Web site.
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 338-1111