Fresno State is one of five finalists for a national award recognizing its significant work to promote the retention and graduation of students.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) named Fresno State as a finalist for its 2016 Project Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize and reward public universities across the country that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion.

“Fresno State is honored by this national recognition of our bold efforts to better serve our students,” said University President Joseph I. Castro. “We are heartened by the significant increase in our graduation rate and focused on doing even better in the future as we strive for a 70 percent, six-year graduation rate by 2023.”

Fresno State launched the Graduation Rate Initiative in 2009 to improve degree completion and student success. It included initiatives such as learning communities, targeted interventions and department plans for at-risk students. Since the program began, it has achieved an increase in six-year graduation rates by 10 percentage points for first-time, full-time freshmen while nearly halving achievement gaps between underrepresented minority students and their peers.

Fresno State’s six-year graduation rate for first time, full-time freshmen went from 48.1 percent to 58.4 percent and the freshmen achievement gap fell from 10.1 points to 5.2 points.

The award is part of Project Degree Completion — a joint initiative that APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities developed in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more degrees by 2025. The annual Project Degree Completion Award includes a $15,000 prize given to the winning institution to further its efforts to improve student outcomes. The award winner will be announced at the APLU Annual Meeting, Nov. 13 to 15, in Austin, Texas.

The other finalists for the 2016 Project Degree Completion Award are Cleveland State University; Montana State University; University of California, Riverside; and Wayne State University.

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