California State University adopts new approach to entice students back
Ashley A. Smith
November 29, 2021
For about eight months, Amanda Cangelosi worked nearly every day as a barista at the local Barnes & Noble near her Los Angeles County home in Agoura Hills.
After struggling through two classes at San Francisco State University during fall 2020, she chose to leave the campus and start working to save money. Living with her parents would be better than the stress of attending online classes in the middle of a pandemic.
But in March, Cangelosi, 20, received an email from the university.
“They wanted me to come back, and if I came back they would give me priority (registration) for classes,” she said. “It made me feel wanted. Like, OK, I’m a priority student. And that felt nice.”
Cangelosi was one of about 300 students to whom San Francisco State reached out in the last year as part of a pilot program to reconnect with students who dropped out or stopped attending the college after fall 2019.
“These students were all in good academic standing and had successfully completed their course work, but for whatever reason, they left us,” said Katie Lynch, senior associate vice president for enrollment management at the university.
And while many universities, including San Francisco State, have historically used advising teams to reach out to former students and encourage them to come back, this new approach was different and caught the attention of the statewide chancellor’s office.
Last month, as part of a four-year systemwide initiative to improve graduation rates, Chancellor Joseph Castro announced that other campuses in the 23-university system would copy San Francisco State’s approach to re-engage and re-enroll students.
Castro promoted the model as a way to get students to return to campuses and make progress toward graduation. The plan also allows colleges to target underserved students to make the system more equitable.
“We have a moral imperative to do better for our students,” Castro said during the convention. “The equity plan calls for an immediate systemwide re-enrollment campaign with specific goals for bringing underserved students back to our universities beginning this spring. … Let’s reach out, find creative ways to reconnect and welcome them back to the CSU and provide them with the support they need to get back on track.”