The Division of Continuing and Global Education created the Provost Graduation Initiative to support the California State University “Graduation 2025” initiative. Graduation 2025 aims to increase graduation rates while decreasing the achievement gap between groups of students.

Fresno State’s Provost Graduation Initiative was originally designed to provide access to summer classes at no cost to students who would graduate by taking a couple of summer classes. Shortly after creation, the initiative was expanded to include low-income students who might not be able to afford access to a summer class. Offering students no-cost summer courses enhances an equitable and expeditious graduation pathway.

The Division of Continuing and Global Education launched the Provost Graduation Initiative in 2016. To date, the program has awarded $1.7 million in grants to 1,525 students covering the cost of over 5,000 academic units. The grants cover the cost of classes, helping students catch up on course work, get ahead in needed units, or stay on track to timely graduation. Such was the experience of Macey Aqra.

“I am entering my last year toward my bachelors in biology with a minor in chemistry and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies,” said Aqra. “I wish to pursue a career in medicine. With knowledge gained through my undergraduate journey, I have a great understanding of disparities within health care systems. My goal is to amplify voices who have been silenced, create a more equitable and safe future for my patients, and to inspire others to work toward a more accessible and compassionate globe.”

Removing the stress of finding ways to pay for summer school has impacted many Fresno State students.

“Paying for my education has been a weight on my shoulders,” said senior Jose Ramos. “Given that I am a DACA student and am not eligible to receive financial aid from the government, this financial assistance has aided tremendously.”

As coordinator of the Provost Graduation Initiative, Tom Boroujeni read every application submitted. “It was eye-opening to see how this grant has impacted so many of our students,” he said. “This grant has been an incredible service to students impacted by changing family income.”

Sociology major Angel Cortez could not have attended summer school without the grant. “When the world seemed to come to a halt, I was laid off from work. I started to help my parents with saved earnings as my father was diagnosed with Valley fever and his income dropped,” Cortez said. “The grant allowed me to further my education and move one step closer to my goal of graduating.”

Compared to students who do not participate in the Provost Graduation Initiative, first-year grant students are nearly twice as likely to graduate in four years and 2 1/2 times more likely to graduate in six years.

Civil engineering student Antonio Lemus-Lemus, who is an intern at Caltrans, said his Provost Graduation Initiative grant improved his grades by allowing him to focus on studying. And he’s already planning how he’ll give back in the future.

“After my graduation in the fall of 2021, I plan to pursue a career there as a transportation engineer. With this, I plan to contribute not only to the engineering industry but to my Fresno community by maintaining and designing future transportation roadways. The grant paid for my construction engineering course, allowing me to focus on my academic pursuits. Without it, it would have been much harder to achieve the grades necessary to fulfill my professional ambitions.”

Associate dean Daniel Bernard, who oversees the initiative, said he was gratified to be able to help students into summer coursework. “I know how incredibly important education is in the Central Valley,” said Bernard. “This program is effective — there’s a strong connection between students who receive the grant and students who graduate on time. To be a part of a program that increases access and graduates our students in a timely fashion makes me extremely proud.”

Student testimonies

Headshot of student Itzel Lopez

Itzel Lopez

“The Provost Graduation Initiative is extremely helpful. Coming from a low-income family, I have had to help with my household expenses and work full time while taking classes. My journey has not been easy and has taken me a long time to graduate. This year, I was delighted to know I was taking my last set of classes, and I knew I needed to take my final course in the summer, which I did not mind paying out of pocket. But when the state was starting to shut down much business, I knew I would not be able to pay for my final class. I reached out for advice from the College of Science and Mathematics Advising and Resources Center of what I could do since I only needed one class. They directed me to this grant, and I was relieved that I could apply for graduation this summer. I am incredibly grateful for being a recipient of this grant, and I hope it continues to help other students that may be in the same situation as me.” — Itzel Lopez

Graduation photo of student Luz Garcia.

Luz Garcia

“My name is Luz Elena Garcia and I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. I am a first-generation college student and I transferred to Fresno State in the fall of 2018. The Provost Graduation Initiative grant gave me the opportunity to take some needed classes and for this reason I am expected to graduate in fall of 2020. After earning my degree from Fresno State, I plan on applying to a clinical lab scientist program to pursue my dream job. Further, I am very happy that I learned about this Provost Graduation Initiative grant because it has made my goals of earning my degree in the fall of 2020 possible. During these difficult times many of us have lost our jobs due to COVID-19 and this has caused a great deal of financial instability. As a daughter of immigrants and one struggling with financial hardship, the Provost Graduation Initiative grant was a great help. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone behind the Provost Graduation Initiative grant. This grant helped me immensely in getting me a step closer to graduation and a job.” — Luz Garcia

Headshot of student Stephanie Valderrama.

Stephanie Valderrama

“I wanted to take the time to thank Continuing and Global Education. Thanks to this division for offering the Provost Graduation Initiative, I was able to take the course required for my major. One of my favorite things about Fresno State is that faculty and staff do everything in their power to give students the tools and resources needed in order for them to succeed. I am proud to say that I received an A in the course that I took during the summer intersession. I would also like to thank our professors for being very passionate about their field of study. They made it possible for me to succeed in this course. I hope to continue to be successful in all my future courses. I am extremely proud of being a Bulldog!” — Stephanie Valderrama


(Written by Michelle Deininger, Fresno State alumna)