The California State University's systemwide philosophy of "meeting students where they are" and supporting them to degree completion is a critical tenet that results in more than 110,000 students earning a high-quality degree every year. The university is striving to do even better and through Graduation Initiative 2025, the CSU is actively working to remove barriers that students encounter as they work to earn a degree.

One challenge is the wide variance in the readiness of students for college level math and/or English.

Students who are academically prepared for college-level courses begin earning credits toward their college degrees on the first day of class. Students who have not demonstrated college readiness in high school, through standardized exams, or CSU's Early Start Program are often required to take one or more pre-requisite developmental courses that do not count toward their college degree, typically in math and/or English. 

Over the past 22 years the CSU has made progress in helping students arrive on campus academically prepared - the number of college-ready students has nearly doubled, from 32 percent in 1995 to 62 percent in 2016. These improvements are the result of the dedicated work of CSU faculty and staff, close collaboration with K-12 partners, and expanded use of multiple measures of assessment.

Despite these efforts, each year, more than one-in-three students who are admitted to the CSU are deemed academically underprepared for college-level courses. Assignment to developmental education courses increases their cost of attendance, lengthens their time to degree and sends a demoralizing message to admitted students about their belongingness in college. "For many students, this represents strike-one before they ever set foot on campus," according to Dr. Loren Blanchard, Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs.

During the March CSU Board of Trustees' meeting held in Long Beach, the CSU rolled out a multi-pronged approach to improve academic preparation and progress toward degree by:

  • Promoting four years of quantitative reasoning in high school to improve college-readiness among incoming students  
  • Improving assessment of students to more effectively determine competency and academic needs
  • Strengthening the CSU Early Start Program to provide more robust student support in the summer before their first term 
  • Restructuring developmental education to provide students the support they need in credit-bearing courses to meet rigorous standards set by faculty

What does that mean for students? On their first day of class, students will now be on a more direct path to earn their degree while saving money in the process. Learn more about how the CSU is improving retention and graduation rates and how it is committed to removing obstacles hindering student success here.