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How California State University, Fullerton Narrowed Their Equity Gap and Saw a $29.4M Return on Student Success Investments

California State University Fullerton


California State University Fullerton (CSUF) is a large public university serving 34,305 undergraduate students with a 67.8% six-year graduation rate and an 88% retention rate.
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    The Challenge

    At CSUF, decentralized advising and support offices lacked standard processes to train staff or direct students to needed resources. Faculty were not sufficiently engaged in collaborating with success staff to fully support students. Additionally, equity gaps between traditional and underrepresented student populations were concerningly wide.

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    The Solution

    CSUF built new Student Success Centers across campus, where staff use Navigate to monitor and connect with students, as well as engage and supplement faculty in supporting students outside the classroom. They also assessed procedural inequalities that disproportionately affect students of color and hired new specialists that use Navigate to improve key outcomes.

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    The Results

    By working to understand and remove barriers to completion, CSUF lowered the equity gap between underrepresented minority (URM)1 and non-URM students by 7 percentage points. CSUF also used Navigate campaigns to see a $29M+ return on investment in three years.

Impact Highlights


Total return on investment from Navigate reenrollment campaigns in three years

7 percentage points

Smaller equity gap between URM and non-URM students for 2013 cohort vs. 2008 cohort

Equity Gap Revealed Need for Investment

Support Structure Not Set Up to Adequately Serve All Students, Contributing to Growing Gap

Chart - Six-Year Graduation Rate by Cohort Entry Year

Advising and Student Support Services Lacked Structure and Coordination

  • No formal training on best practices and expectations for advisors
  • No unifying focus for all campus constituencies on the importance of advising
  • No clear understanding of where successful and unsuccessful students overlap and differ
  • No accessible data on students’ needs to help guide interventions
  • No structured process for directing students to the right resources
  • No system to flag students taking excessive and unnecessary courses
  • No adequate support for graduation planning and preparation

Equity Gap Revealed Need for Investment

  1. Implement EAB Navigate

    • Appointed Student Success and IT leaders as cochairs of Navigate implementation team
    • Leveraged EAB Consultant as a go-to partner to all offices in the advising community
  2. Improve Physical Space to Serve Students

    • Established new Student Success Centers at all CSUF colleges, designed offices for efficiency
    • Showcased diverse staff backgrounds with profiles in waiting area
  3. Engage Faculty in Student Success

    • Formally recognized faculty for their impact in academic advising
    • Shared students’ stories about the impact of faculty conversations outside the classroom
  4. Audit Procedural Inequalities

    • Examined data on higher rates of account holds among African American students
    • Surveyed students about account holds, revealing that different populations interpret these in distinct ways



Increase in notes posted in Navigate, 2016 to 2018


Student-initiated semesterly fee that funds Success Centers


Increase in Navigate staff and faculty users, 2016 to 2018

Registration Holds Are a Barrier to Completion

New Efforts to Address Barriers

Previously, advisors and staff placed holds preventing students from reenrolling or graduating, often without giving students a clear path to fix the situation.

  • Encourage staff to consider interventions before applying holds
  • Apply holds for required probation workshops after students fail to attend, rather than before the workshop has occurred
  • Allow students to withdraw from courses online when needed, so they don’t fail
  • Inform seniors of credit deficiency well in advance of graduation, rather than just one month ahead

New Specialists Use Navigate to Tangibly Impact Student Success

  • Retention Specialists contact non-enrolled students for the upcoming term prior to the start of classes
  • Graduation Specialists conduct workshops where seniors learn how to qualify and apply for graduation

New Efforts to Address Barriers

  • Run appointment campaigns for various student populations, from the most vulnerable to the highest-achieving
  • Monitor assigned caseload with filtered watch lists to prioritize students in need of support and send highly targeted student communications
  • Share Notes with appropriate colleagues about important student

A Massive Return on Investment: Supporting Students with Navigate

Multiyear Reenrollment Campaigns Add Up to Thousands More Students Retained


Total tuition revenue from 3,465 reenrolled students
Tuition revenue for a second year, based on 77% retention rate

Cost to employ 10 retention specialists for four years


Total return on investment from Navigate reenrollment campaigns

Student Success Initiatives Help Drive Progress Toward Closing Equity Gap