How California State University is tackling equity with technology

New iPad Airs could reach 35,000 new students and transfers.
By: | July 13, 2021
Photo courtesy of Apple

A simple way for colleges and universities to reach prospective students and fuel their desire to learn once enrolled is by enticing them with technology tools.

So, the California State University system has decided to give all incoming students and transfers at eight of its campuses new iPad Air, Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard Folios, as long as they register for an initiative called CSUCCESS (CSU Connectivity Contributing to Equity and Student Success). The hope is that the devices and accessories will help provide an equitable start for those matriculating through postsecondary education.

“CSUCCESS will assure that students have immedi​ate access to innovative, new mobile tools they need to support their learning, particularly when faced with the lingering effects of the pandemic,” CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro said. “The new initiative will establish a foundation for their achievement and has the potential to play a key role in eliminating stubborn equity gaps among our talented and diverse students.”

CSU believes the new tech, provided in partnership with Apple, will provide enhanced learning outcomes as well as pathways to better careers for thousands of students, many of whom are Pell Grant recipients and/or are the first from their families to attend college.

“I am convinced that true and consistent student success depends on having a modern, and more importantly, reliable, computing device in our students’ possession beginning on day one and continuing throughout their college experience,” Castro said. “We aspire to have additional phases of the initiative that will expand access in the future to more new and current students at other CSU campuses.”

The CSUCCESS program is part of a commitment from the Cal State University system to provide access and devices to those students in need. Though CSU spent an astounding $18 million on more than 20,000 laptops and 10,000 hot spots this past year, some students still face technology barriers, namely the high-end devices and support that other students have. The iPads and accessories are the first phase of the program as CSU identifies more need and more campuses that want to participate. All told, CSU expects 35,000 of its nearly 500,000 students to be assisted across those campuses-Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy, Northridge and San Marcos.

CSU is also thinking beyond simply providing immediate need. For the past six years, it has undertaken an effort called Graduation Initiative 2025 that aims to further boost graduation rates. Increased access to technology is part of the success story.

Since 2015, graduation rates of four-year first-time students have increased 12% to 31%, while its six-year rate has gone up 5% to 62%, with a goal of hitting 70% by 2025 (40% for the four-year numbers). Transfer student outcomes also have increased substantially since 2015, nearly reaching its goal for two-year students of 45%. Four-year transfer numbers are on pace to reach the 85% goal in 2025.

Cal State University credits identifying six priorities as its strives to boost equity and student success that may also help other institutional leaders: academic preparation, enrollment management, student engagement and well-being, financial support, data-informed decision making and administrative barriers.