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San Diego State University

Leadership starts here: 10 Ways SDSU is Closing the Achievement Gap

  • Hepner quad
  • Grads 2012
  • Trimaine Davis
  • Hepner Hall
  • SDSU public health student hands out a backpacks to local children in Kongwa.
  • Ellese Carmona

#1 Raising Expectations

SDSU believes every student is capable of being successful no matter their background. SDSU now recommends all students take 15 units per semester – especially freshmen.

#2 Major Academic Plans

All incoming students receive a four-year plan giving them a clear road map to graduation. When students decide to change their major, they can consider the implications on their four-year plan immediately.

#3 Educational Opportunity Program

SDSU’s EOP program, the largest in California, provides student services and support for more than 1,500 low income, first-generation college students.

#4 Data-Driven Action

SDSU leaders have an open “try everything” mindset but every program is evaluated extensively and data analysis allows the university to focus on what works best.

#5 Study Abroad

Research shows students who engage in extracurricular activities, like study abroad or undergraduate research, get better grades and graduate more often than those who don’t.

#6 Undergraduate Research

With SDSU faculty leading research on everything from heart disease to construction engineering, all SDSU students are offered an opportunity to participate in research, even undergraduates.
    • Compact 7th graders
      SDSU is engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at creating a college-going culture in local middle and high schools like Compact for Success and the Pre-College Institute.
    • Early Start
      SDSU requires new freshmen with remediation needs to take remedial courses during the summer so when they begin classes in the fall, they are not behind their fellow classmates.
    • Student studying in library
      SDSU’s Bounce Back program uses positive psychology and building on student strengths by helping probationary students learn time management, test-taking and study skills.
    • Casa Azteca
      Since students who live on campus are more academically successful than students who commute, SDSU provides student services and study space at an off-campus location for commuter students in the South County.
    Ten years ago, San Diego State University set out to tackle one of education’s biggest problems – the achievement gap. Students from underrepresented minority groups were graduating or continuing their progress toward graduation at a significantly lower rate than other students. So university leaders took action.

    Through a university-wide effort, SDSU is now being acknowledged as a model. The Education Trust’s report on public higher education systems in its Access to Success Initiative recognizes SDSU for its success in raising graduation rates and closing the achievement gap among underrepresented minority students.

    So how did SDSU achieve these lofty goals in such a relatively short timeframe? Starting from the top leadership and filtering down through every division, dozens of programs have been developed or enhanced to foster student success. These are ten programs or initiatives that have played an important part.

     The Education Trust logo

    2012 Access to Success Report:

    “From 2005 to 2010, San Diego State more than halved its graduation rate gap for underrepresented minority freshman - from 19 to eight percentage points.  Graduation rates increased for all students during this period but rose an impressive 22 points for underrepresented minority students. Among transfer students, the university posted double-digit increases in underrepresented minority graduation rates while cutting the gap nearly in half. SDSU also raised rates and narrowed gaps between low income students and their peers.”

    Read the complete report.

    Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.


    For more information about SDSU's success in closing the achivement gap, please contact the Division of Undergraduate Studies.