The Orfalea College of Business Has the Highest Graduation Rate in the CSU System. Here’s Why.

By Christina Arthur

The Orfalea College of Business currently has a graduation rate of 79 percent, the highest in the CSU system. Orfalea Assistant Dean for Student Success Amy Carter revealed this rate has hasn’t always been this high. There has been an upward momentum in OCOB’s graduation rates over the last ten years and she cited several different reasons for this.

“I think a huge part of it comes from the resources we dedicate to support and enhance student success,” Carter said. 

One resource she noted was the development of student services, especially over the last ten years, an office that includes tutoring, mentoring, an internal career readiness center, and a Multicultural Business Program.

According to Carter, in 2005, the college began its peer advising model and saw grad rates jump up almost 10 percent over the course of four years. “Peer advisors allow us to free up our professional advisors to do more developmental counseling and targeted outreach to students who may be falling behind or need additional support to get connected to campus resources,” Carter said. 

The college has staffed 25 peer advisors, which Carter said is one of the largest peer advising models she has ever seen. “I haven’t actually seen another model on another campus that mirrors the scale at which we’re employing our advisors,” she added. 

OCOB also has more than 150 peer leaders in student services, who work as advisors, mentors, Multicultural Business Program interns, or ambassadors. A large part of their job is focused on proactive outreach to students and providing support as required. They even check in with older students before they graduate, to advise them on exactly what they may still need to keep in mind academically, or even socially, as their time at Cal Poly winds down. “This is so that students are not in a position of graduating and forgetting that they have missed a couple of free elective units or whatever it may be,” Carter added. 

This not only helps the students, but it gives the peer leaders a valuable experience as well. “Through this, peer leaders have the ability to utilize leadership experience in college that will help them get jobs and give them a sense of purpose,” Carter added. “I’m proud of all the programs and services we have been able to provide for students.”

Beyond these initiatives, the College of Business has additionally developed courses to ensure students are on the right track. All freshmen are enrolled into Business 100: Student Orientation and College Success in their fall quarter. “Within that class, we educate them about how to be a student and transition into college,” Carter said. “And they build out a four-year plan based around what they might want to pursue as a concentration, including options for their minors. Basically they walk away from their first quarter of college knowing exactly which courses they plan to take from when they start, all the way until graduation.” 

A follow-up class, Business 206: Business Professionalism and Career Readiness, makes sure to continue the trajectory, encouraging students to think about foundational career pieces like resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and internships. “It’s also a place where we encourage them to explore where their values are, and how they want to build out their leadership skills,” Carter said.

With career readiness being OCOB’s mission, these initiatives are designed specifically to prepare students for graduation and post-grad careers. “We try to get as much data as we can around where students are going once they graduate,” Carter said. “And we have an 85 percent knowledge rate of where our graduates are going.” 

Along with this, the college has put a priority on getting their students as connected to industries as possible, which has positively impacted job placement rates for graduates. “At OCOB, our students have a 94 percent job placement rate within three months of graduation,” Carter explained. “That means nearly every student in the college receives their diploma, walks out our doors, and immediately lands in either their professional field or in a graduate program.”