CSU, Chico News

Chico Student Success Center Recognized for Innovation

Date: 03-01-2010

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Gary McMahon, director
Chico Student Success Center

The Chico Student Success Center (CSSC), at California State University, Chico, has received a CollegeKeys Compact Innovation Award for the Western Region of the College Board for its work with low-income students.

CSSC is a collaborative student development program that supports a successful college experience for students as they transition from high school to college and then to professional careers. Potential students are identified in one of 35 designated schools, and then those students are offered motivational workshops, academic counseling, information about higher education, and guidance in college and financial aid applications and problem solving.

Last year, the CSSC connected with more than 1,500 low-income high school students and their families throughout California. The program also served approximately 300 low-income students enrolled at CSU, Chico.

The program offers various levels of service to students, from computer availability, to academic support and advising, to leadership training and career preparation.

More than 90 percent of the students served are first-generation college students, with the majority being students of color.

The program has identified Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for students which help predict potential success in college: (1) a set of pre-college milestones that includes accurate financial aid forms, housing applications and attendance at freshman orientation; (2) current grade point averages; (3) participation in civic engagement activities, including community service; and (4) career preparation activities.

Students with the necessary CSFs are identified through personal interviews. CSSC staff members are designing a new social network system to help with information flow and data gathering that will help in the process.

The primary measurement of success for the program is the six-year graduation rate of participating students. Students who have participated in the leadership program CSSC offers have an impressive 86 percent graduation rate.

“My associate director, Oscar Haro, the staff and I are extremely honored to be receiving this type of external validation, especially from the College Board,” said Gary McMahon, director of the program since its inception 12 years ago. “Everything we accomplish is through collaboration with other like-minded educational professionals, both on our campus and in the high schools throughout California. The real honor is in the opportunity to spend our professional lives with students who have the dreams and the courage to create a new reality for themselves and their families.”

The award came with $5,000 to help support CSSC’s efforts. McMahon received the award at the College Board Western Regional Forum in La Jolla at the end of February.

The CSSC was created as the Business Resource Center in 1998 under the leadership of then dean of the College of Business, Arno Rethans. It is funded through the Provost’s Office at CSU, Chico and with donations from Chevron, LAM Research, PG&E, Target and the Bay Area Development Company.