About the Initiatives

The Student Success Initiative (SSI) was born in 2007, crosses five University divisions and all academic colleges, and is composed of countless moving parts: from the instructors who provide Early Performance Feedback to the academic success coordinators who go the extra mile to help students to our Registrar’s Office and Office of Financial Aid who have stepped up in remarkable ways to join the campus-wide effort to sustain and support students in their academic journeys. These collaborative, campus-wide efforts help undergraduate students find their path, thrive in and out of the classroom, and stay the course as they move toward graduation.

SSI efforts are informed by a white paper created to address overall retention rates, with two direct goals in the first generation of Student Success Initiatives, now referred to as SSI-1:

  • Achieve a 70 percent or greater six-year graduation rate
  • Eliminate the gap between six-year graduation rates of minority and non-minority students, adjusted for entering background characteristics

Even as the original SSI activities were underway, then-President Tony Frank set a new and more challenging goal: absolute elimination of opportunity gaps, irrespective of prior preparation. In his 2011 Fall Address, he challenged the University to eliminate the graduation rate differentials for first generation students, students from low-income backgrounds, and students of color without conditions. Complete gap elimination and achievement of an 80 percent or greater six-year graduation rate by 2020 are the main goals of the second generation of Student Success Initiatives, known as SSI-2.

a History of CSU's Climb Toward an 80 Percent Graduation Rate

2002 – Creation of learning communities for first year students, designed to honor the identities and strengths of each student to foster students’ transition to and through the University, called Key Communities.

2005 – Top-level administrators begin designing a plan to achieve a 70 percent graduation rate by 2017.

2006 – Board of Governors approves inclusion of the Student Success Initiative in the annual budget.

2007 – TILT, The Institute for Learning and Teaching, and CASA, the Center for Advising and Student Achievement, are created to transform teaching methods and expand support for undergraduate learning.

2008 – CASA focuses on advising undeclared students, enhancing early-warning systems, and returning students on academic probation to good standing through intervention programs. Tony Frank becomes president of CSU.

2009 – Great Recession deepens; 73 percent of students receive financial aid.

2010 – Rick Miranda appointed provost and executive vice president. Five-year graduation rate for transfer students is above 71 percent.

2011 – Graduation rates for all students at four, five, and six years hit all-time highs and are on track to achieve SSI goals. President Frank sets a new stretch goal of 80 percent graduation rate by 2020 and elimination of all gaps between students of various backgrounds.

2012 – The Campaign for Colorado State raises more than a half-billion dollars for academic and scholarship programs. In national survey, CSU students report positive changes in their level of satisfaction with faculty interactions and the advising they receive, compared to 2007.

2013 – Freshmen on academic probation down to 12 percent from 20 percent in 2006.

2014 – CSU celebrates the 30th anniversary of its First Generation Award, a first-of-its-kind program to support the academic success of students whose parents did not earn bachelor’s degrees.

2015 – First-year students returning to CSU remains above 86 percent, up from 82.5 percent in 2006. This increase leads to the CSU SSI model receiving national attention among peer institutions, studied by other universities as the gold standard.

2016 – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation renews the University’s iPASS grant to continue innovation in student advising, and the Aspen Institute features CSU’s successful collaboration with Front Range Community College to support transfer students in a national report.


  • Ryan Barone hired as the Assistant Vice President of Student Success, reforming the steering leadership with Blanche Hughes, Vice President for Student Affairs, and Kelly Long, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs.
  • CASA becomes the Collaborative for Student Achievement. SSI achieves its original goals with the graduating class of May 2017. The Association of Land-Grant Universities includes CSU’s SSI among best practices for higher education leaders seeking to transform their own campuses.

2018 – Launch of the First Four Weeks Initiative led by University Distinguished Teaching Scholar, Stephanie Clemons.

2019 – Joyce McConnell hired as Colorado State University’s 15th president.