Student success experts have prescribed potential solutions to declining Black student enrollment and retention numbers in California’s public universities in a recent report published by The California State University (CSU) Office of the Chancellor.
Class of 2022 data revealed that only 48% of Black, first-year students who enrolled in the CSU in fall 2016 earned their degree in six years, according to the Black Student Success Workgroup Report.
The report is the culmination of 2023 workgroup study spurred by then-Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester’s call for the university system’s leadership to redouble efforts to advance Black student success.
The subsequent workgroup comprising representatives with expertise in student success met regularly to study and discuss how to attract and retain more Black students to the CSU.
In February 2023, the workgroup hosted three virtual listening forums, respectively targeting Black students, Black faculty, and Black staff across CSU’s 23 universities.
“What these and other activities subsequently revealed was a gap between our collective aspirations and a more challenging and complex reality,” said Drs. Thomas A. Parham and Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, co-chairs for the workgroup. “Thus, our recommendation that the CSU system abandons the romantic illusion of Black equity in the system was further reinforced by the those who participated in our listening and focus group sessions.”
The report provides insights on closing “the gap between our aspirational and actual selves in the CSU” to realize the full potential of Black students on campus. It examines existing practices and identifies practices that could scale systemwide and proposes fixes to practices that hinder Black student progress.
Addressing the persistent declines in Black student attainment, the report offers 13 actionable recommendations categorized in three areas: 1.) strategies that directly support Black student success; 2.) strategies that support faculty and staff in support of Black student success; and 3.) strategies to cultivate a systemwide infrastructure and inclusive campus climates.
The first recommendation for directly supporting Black students is to create and implement a CSU Early Outreach Plan. The workgroup found that the percentage of Black students enrolled in the CSU is significantly less than the percentage of Black students in the system’s prospective student pool. Thus, the report includes proposals to develop a comprehensive enrollment strategy for Black students and develop a comprehensive retention and persistence strategy for Black students as well as create welcoming and affirming spaces.
For supporting faculty and staff, the workgroup proposes that CSU develop and implement inclusive and culturally relevant curricula, standardize and increase Black faculty and staff recruitment and support, invest in Black faculty and staff support, and incorporate Black student success in faculty and staff evaluations.
Regarding a systemwide infrastructure for Black student success, the report recommends implementing a comprehensive enrollment marketing campaign, developing a structure and process for systemwide data-driven practices, and creating systemwide policies on addressing unprofessional conduct. The workgroup also suggested launching the CSU Statewide Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence and creating structures for systemwide accountability. It advises that implementation and measurement of its proposed strategies be continuous and reassessed by 2025.