The California State University today released a plan designed to both elevate Black excellence and address the continuing decline in Black student enrollment, retention and graduation rates across the 23 CSU universities. The comprehensive report, “Advancing Black Student Success and Elevating Black Excellence in the CSU: A Call to Action,” is endorsed by all 23 CSU presidents and includes 13 recommendations ranging from a comprehensive enrollment strategy for Black students to the creation of a Central Office for the Advancement of Black Excellence. The report is the product of a workgroup called for by Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester following the system’s inaugural Juneteenth symposium last summer.
“It was an event that crystallized, for me, the CSU’s institutional, societal and moral imperative to take meaningful action,” said Koester. “While we have been welcoming and seeing Black students succeed at our universities, we must go further by asking, ‘What are we doing to meet the needs of our Black students?’ We need to create an entirely new and holistic approach for supporting Cal State’s Black community.”
The workgroup included CSU university presidents and subject matter experts from across the system with the recommendations informed by feedback from listening sessions and focus groups with more than 250 Black students, faculty and staff. The recommendations are organized around four key areas that historically have had the greatest impact on Black student success: 1) K-12 community outreach and the recruitment cycle; 2) student retention, persistence and academic success; 3) campus culture, community and belonging; and 4) the role of faculty, staff and university leadership in advancing and being held accountable for Black student success.
The effort is part of the system’s overall commitment to increase student success through its Graduation Initiative 2025, which has contributed to increased graduation rates systemwide, but has not yet closed stubborn equity gaps in both Black student enrollment and retention.
CSU has prioritized efforts to reach out and support Black students with initiatives including Super Sunday, Black Student Unions and Black Associations, cultural resource centers, Black faculty and staff associations, as well as graduation celebrations for Black students. In its report, the Black Student Success and Black Excellence Workgroup calls for the CSU to build on these efforts.
“While there is a greater awareness and sensitivity to the reality of Black life in America, this acute attention has also shone a spotlight on the gap between our aspirational and actual selves in the CSU. The mission set before all of us in the CSU community – the Board of Trustees, the Office of the Chancellor, and our university leaders, faculty, staff and students – is to close that gap and realize the full potential of Black excellence in the CSU,” concludes the report.
The CSU has committed an initial investment of $10 million over three years to advance these priorities.
“The collective and unified commitment on the part of CSU leadership to implement the report’s recommendations underscores the importance and urgency of this work,” said Koester. “While correcting longstanding inequities will take time, we must take immediate and decisive action. The CSU’s Black community deserves it. Our mission and core values demand it.”
The recommendations presented in the report will not only serve as a path forward for Black student success across the CSU’s campuses, but could potentially serve as a model for other colleges, universities and university systems across the nation.
“Today, the CSU is called on to effect a cultural change that will impact the lives of not only our current students, but the generations of African American faculty, staff and other Black people to follow,” wrote CSU Dominguez Hills President Thomas Parham and Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, co-chairs of the Black Student Success Workgroup. “While culture change and organizational excellence are difficult to achieve, they are not impossible – especially when the nation’s largest and most diverse four-year institution of public higher education draws upon its many resources with unusual intentionality to realize the full measure of its promise and possibility.”