CSU provides a model of sustainable innovation in support of student success, eliminating graduation rate gaps based on race while generating $30 million in net revenue from improved student performance.
Colorado State University (CSU) is a Research-1 Land Grant University with an expressed commitment to meeting the educational needs of today’s students. CSU enrolled 23,000 undergraduates in fall 2016: one of every four students is first-generation in college; one in four is a member of a race/ethnic minority group, and one in five receives a Pell grant.
In 2005, the university president and provost challenged the university to substantially increase undergraduate student success. In response to the 2005 challenge, the university developed the Plan for Excellence: Enhancing Undergraduate Education and Student Success, which had two goals:
Goal 1: Achieve a six-year graduation rate of 70% (from the base of 63.7%).
Goal 2: Eliminate the graduation rate gap between minority students and non-minority students, accounting for differences in prior preparation.
CSU implemented an array of student success initiatives (SSI) over the next 12 years. Throughout the implementation of these success metrics, they monitored momentum points to evaluate whether they were contributing to student success and, if not, whether they should be modified or abandoned.
The implementation of the entire array of SSI initiatives was completed in June 2017. Available evidence suggests that CSU met Goal 1 five years early and Goal 2 three years early. In addition to tracking student success under its SSI metrics, CSU has also carefully tracked initiative investment and return on that investment from net tuition and fees (less initiative cost). That return is estimated at $30 million dollars since the Plan was launched in 2007−08.
Although the initial Plan initiatives were completed in 2017, CSU has continued to build on its success, setting new 4- and 6-year graduation rate goals, and focusing on eliminating graduation gaps entirely. In all, CSU has demonstrated the application of an ROI lens in creating sustainable innovation in support of student success.