California State University graduation rates climbed despite pandemic, but equity gaps remain

California
Students head to class at California State University Long Beach in this undated photo. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Students head to class at California State University Long Beach in this undated photo. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A record 132,167 students earned degrees from California State University during the 2020-21 academic year — including nearly 113,000 bachelor of arts degrees — but persistent gaps widened among historically underrepresented students, officials said Friday.

Graduation rates for first-time and transfer students have continued to increase since 2015, when the university system launched its important graduation initiative to improve sagging rates.

But the graduation equity gap for Pell Grant recipients — students with exceptional financial needs — and non-Pell Grant recipients grew slightly this past year and now stands at 10.2%, up from 9.2%, Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Sylvia Alva said. The gap for students of color — Black, Native American and Latino — also grew and now stands at 12.4%, up from 10.5%.

“It would be simple to sit back and attribute inequities to the pandemic, to the economic uncertainty, the racial and social injustice across the nation — all of the turbulence of the last year. It would be simple, but it would be incomplete — incomplete because that explanation robs us of accountability,” Alva said.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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