With graduation around the corner, students prepare to enter the professional realm by networking with employers at the career fair. (Ruth Olivares / The Poly Post)

Graduation rates on the rise

Hard work pays off. 

Students can attest to this as graduation rates at Cal Poly Pomona are at an all-time high following the implementation of several initiatives to increase graduation rates. 

The university is one of 23 California State Universities (CSU) that took part in Graduation Initiative 2025, which is aimed at increasing four-year and six-year graduation rates across all CSUs by meeting the needs of students in academic preparation, enrollment management, student engagement and well-being and financial aid, according to the CSU website.

Currently, the university is listed as one of the CSU campuses with the highest four-year graduation rates, along with six other CSUs, according to EdSource. 

With graduation around the corner, students prepare to enter the professional realm by networking with employers at the career fair. (Ruth Olivares / The Poly Post)

While Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was the CSU with the highest four-year graduation rate at 52.5 percent, CPP landed in fifth place of 23 CSUs for a four-year graduation rate of 29.7 percent, up 6 percent from 2017. The lowest rate of 9.5 percent belongs to nearby Cal State L.A.

While this may seem like a subtle increase, just a few years back in 2015, the four-year graduation rate at CPP was 17.8 percent.

Associate Vice President for Student Success Terri Gomez said President Soraya M. Coley approved the Summer Completion Initiative for the first time last year and it was a huge aid to students. 

“Students didn’t believe we were doing this,” Gomez said.

Under the Summer Completion Initiative, any student who was 0-8 units from his or her degree received an email from the university offering to pay for the individual’s classes, books, parking, and one meal a day, regardless of financial aid eligibility — with the condition that student take his or her classes in the summer instead of waiting for the fall. 

The initiative was paid for using money from Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, Inc. 

A total of 327 eligible students received assistance under the Summer Completion Initiative and 304 of them graduated during the summer. 

Coley approved the project again for the upcoming 2019 summer term.

“We want to make this money go as far as possible and serve as many students as we can,” Gomez said. 

Data collection is currently underway to determine how many students will be eight units or less from graduating. 

In addition to new programs, Gomez said she believes changes in advising also played a big role in the graduation rate jump.

“We know that stuff that happens outside of the classroom really impacts students,” Gomez said.

According to Gomez, the university adopted a more holistic approach to advising in order to better suit student needs. The new holistic approach incorporates coaching and peer mentoring, as well as going beyond academic concerns as a way to meet students’ needs.

Last year, the university opened up a new position for an associate vice president for Campus Health & Wellbeing, currently occupied by Dr. Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez. 

Gomez said Gutierrez-Lopez has been working to ensure all students are supplied adequate mental health and social support networks to fulfill the holistic side of advising.

Eight new positions for graduation and retention specialists were also created last year, one for each college on campus, with the addition of one e-advising coordinator.

Graduation and retention specialists work with students who are close to graduating and with students who are facing academic difficulties, such as disqualification or probation. 

Jacquelyn Trejo is one of eight retention and graduation specialists and she serves the College of Business Administration’s Student Success Center.

Last year, she said she noticed students pushed harder toward graduation by taking heavier course loads in order to avoid semester conversion. 

While Trejo said she anticipates the conversion to semesters may affect 2019 graduation rates, she said she believes rates will increase steadily with the many resources offered to students. 

Trejo said she recommends that students seek academic advising and learn about the various resources and tools on campus, as they are beneficial to their success.

“We’re here to guide them,” Trejo said. “We’re here to help pave the pathway of success.” 

Antonio Lopez is a fourth-year, first-generation student and urban and regional planning major nearing graduation in the spring. He said he struggled to find academic resources in his first year.

Lopez’s visit to the Educational Opportunity Program’s tutoring center was not what he imagined after he realized that there was no tutoring offered for urban and regional planning courses. 

“I felt despair,” Lopez said. “If I don’t understand this [material] and nobody can help me, who am I going to reach out to?”

Luckily for Lopez, students in the urban and regional planning (URP) student lounge helped him out.

“I felt comfortable reaching out to upperclassmen from my major in the URP lounge,” Lopez said. “Whenever I’d get stuck on anything I could just walk to Building 7 and see if anyone could help.” 

Lopez said students should seek help wherever they can find it rather than stressing about it. 

“There’s plenty of resources many might not know of, especially when they’re in a panic mode,” Lopez said. “But once you calm down you’ll realize there’s resources all around you,” Lopez said, referring to his classmates.

Anyone seeking advising can visit the Bronco Advising Center in the first floor of the new Student Services Building, or reach the center by email via bac@cpp.edu. 

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