CSU 2.0 explained, Part 2: Increasing financial aid, residential students, curriculum changes, and more

By Connor Mahon

Euclid Commons is one of two residence halls at CSU, which combined house just 10% of the student body. Goals to raise this to 20% in the next 5 years have been proposed, By: Molly Bregar

CSU 2.0, a 5 year plan for the future of the university, was unveiled in a Facebook Live on March 26th. Today, we are taking a closer look at the second of four themes that make up the ambitious plan, to unpack what it all means for you, the student. The theme, “Differentiate on Student Success/Engaged Learning,” consists of seven priorities. 

Priority 1: Enhance student support 

CSU plans to increase fall-to-fall retention rate to 80% (an increase from the current 76%) and the 6-year graduation rate to 60% (from 46%, in 2019), through external funding and reallocating funding “to direct student support that drives progression and graduation.”

The report continues, “This effort will also include reinventing advising/degree pathway coaching using technology and building our current mentoring/coaching effort to scale.” Paired with the potential changes to advising caused by the consolidation of colleges, advising will definitely be an area of much change in the coming years. 

The mentoring/coaching effort mentioned may refer to the highly successful Graduation Coaches, who work with first-generation students. The program boasts an 82% retention rate, which exceeds both CSU’s current rate and aspirational goal. This is especially impressive when compared to the same population’s retention rate prior to the program’s existence, 51%. If these efforts are effectively scaled to include more students, it would be incredibly beneficial.

Priority 2: Invest in Pre-Enrollment Programming 

This includes programs like the Summer Transition and Enrichment Program (STEP), Cleveland Math Corps, and Operation STEM, which show promise at increasing student success and retention rates. The university also plans to “intensify our outreach to the region’s community colleges and high schools.” This may be an attempt to target students receiving a Say Yes Cleveland Scholarship, which provides tuition for students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Priority 3: Expand Residential Opportunities 

Despite large investments over the past decades in two large residence halls, Fenn Tower and Euclid Commons, a very small proportion of students live on campus, at only around 10%. CSU plans to double this over the next five years, to reach a total of 3000 students. 

The future of residence life at Cleveland State is very uncertain. While management of its residential properties is still outsourced to a company called American Campus Communities, Cleveland State University has been taking a more active role in the hiring of resident assistants this year, indicating there is potential for the 17 year old management agreement to be coming to an end. In 2016, the university proposed plans to demolish the Wolstein Center to build more student housing, although the project never came to fruition.

No further details have been released about plans for expanding housing options, but the report did state plans to develop Living Learning Communities like the successful Parker

Hannifin Living Learning Community, which provides additional support and financial assistance for a select number of graduates from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 

Increasing the number of residential students has the potential to benefit all students in a number of ways, such as contributing to a more vibrant campus atmosphere, and attracting more restaurants and businesses to the area, including the currently vacant retail space in The Langston. 

Priority 4: Increase Financial Aid

With around 75% of students receiving some sort of aid from the university already, plans for a $1 million annual investment in need based aid will help many students to graduate with less debt, and enable them to focus more time and energy on class than another job. 

The plan also specified plans to “adjust the mix of our need-based and merit-based scholarship programs.” The merit based component of this may be related to the “expanded” Honors program mentioned during the presentation, which currently provides full tuition for 4 years to around 40 students each year. 

Priority 5: Build Out the Co-Op Promise and Strengthen Career Preparation 

The “CSU Engaged Learning Promise” was initially announced in the 2019 State of the University address, and is expanded under CSU 2.0. The report says “our long-term goal is to make at least one paid internship or co-op experience available to every CSU student who wants one.” This new goal includes a co-op connector program, funding for faculty support and student salaries, and making professional preparation a general education skill area. The ambitious goal specifies a paid experience, and it is possible that a number of these experiences will come in the form of on campus jobs with faculty, potentially in research. 

Priority 6: Address Disparities in Student Outcomes

The report notes that “academic outcomes for students of color tend at CSU to lag behind those for the majority students,” a common problem in higher education. While not offering direct solutions, the university plans to analyse the disparities further. Many of the other components of CSU 2.0, including increased financial aid and student support, may serve this goal even without a specific focus on students of color by addressing underlying economic disparities. 

Priority 7: Review and Update Curricula 

CSU plans to review general education course offerings, core courses for majors, develop certificates and minors, and establish new degree programs “that meet workforce and societal needs.”

Any plans to review program offerings may be met with some fear from students in smaller majors, but the report does not mention anything about cutting programs. In Theme 4, however, plans are stated to cut low enrollment general education courses, and reduce the number of sections offered for certain courses. A full analysis of this will be in a forthcoming article. 

Standing out is the intention to develop new minors, certificates, and degree programs. This contrasts with other universities, who, in an attempt to reduce COVID-19 related budget deficits, have been cutting faculty and programs to severe backlash. An example of this is the discontinuation of American Sign Language classes at Bowling Green State University, which resulted in a petition signed by over 26,000 people.

Specifying that new programs with “meet workforce and societal needs” is a sentiment continued throughout the rest of the document, including in the Co-Op promise, and much of Theme 3, which will be explored fully in a forthcoming article. 
To learn more about CSU 2.0 you can read the full report or watch the Facebook Live event.

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