Cal State Long Beach continues to be at the forefront of reversing the number of college dropouts nationwide.
The national dropout rate hovers around 50% over a six-year period, according to UC Berkeley professor and author David Kirp. However, Cal State Long Beach, through its connection with the Long Beach College Promise program, has seen its graduation rates increase yearly.
The progress Cal State Long Beach has made in this area is why Kirp touts the university as a success story in his book, “The College Dropout Scandal.” He called the national trend a “scandal.”
“It means that at four-year schools, students are leaving with debt and no degree to show for it,” Kirp said Monday in a chat with President Jane Close Conoley at the Martha B. Knoebel Dance Theater. “And that leaves them without the credential to get the kinds of jobs that will allow them to pay off their debt. In fact, it’s not short-term; it’s life-changing.”
Cal State Long Beach has increased its four-year graduation rate for those who enrolled as first-time freshman to 34% in 2019 from 16% in 2015. This improvement is a combined result of the College Promise and a CSU-wide initiative to increase graduation rates by 2025.
The College Promise teams the city’s K-12 schools with Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach to ensure the success of its students by offering continuous support from the time a student enters kindergarten and into their career.
Kirp wrote in his book that Cal State Long Beach “has turned into a go-to school. With nearly 100,000 applicants, the seventh-highest number nationwide, it could admit a class composed entirely of students with 24-karat credentials. Instead, it accepts local students with substantially weaker grades and SAT scores. Those students are likelier to graduate than their classmates from outside the region. “
Kirp said Monday that a program such as the College Promise addresses the student success problem and boosts graduation rates, which in turn shrinks the opportunity gap of the new generation of students.
“I went around the country looking for schools that were doing good things, and the hope is that places like Long Beach State University and what the city is doing, would actually get other people interested,” he said. “And that other institutions would be willing to go out on a limb to make the kind of efforts that all the successful schools have made.”
Kirp found that Cal State Long Beach and Georgia State were among the best in promoting student success through personal connections, such as counseling programs. He said many new-gen students come from communities and families who don’t have the knowledge or resources to help them.
“The bottom line is the personal connection,” Kirp said, pointing out that depression and loneliness can derail college plans.
“It’s been my experience here to think at Long Beach, and other places you mentioned, about how we need to be for students to succeed instead of how students need to be in order to succeed with us,” Conoley said.
“(We have to ask) are we student-ready? Instead of are you student ready to come here. I think that’s a pretty profound switch in mindset.”
Kirp said he thought student success was the top priority of every university and college. He called himself “naïve.”
“The No. 1 priority at many universities is where are you in the U.S. News and World Report rankings, and that drives a whole array of decisions about selectivity and where it is you end up investing in resources,” Kirp said.
He added that campus leaders need to make student success their No. 1 priority and it can’t be rhetoric, adding that “everyone featured in that book has got to have the guts to do as much as possible along that line.”