More than 10,000 students fresh off their summer breaks descended on Cal State Bakersfield Monday for the start of classes, and many of them might find new programs and initiatives on campus.

Chief among them? An initiative to graduate more students in four years by eliminating barriers for students.

“We’re really trying to pull down any barriers that we create so they can make progress toward their degrees and graduate in four years,” CSUB Provost Jenny Zorn said. “Things that slow them down – we want to make sure those aren’t in their way.”

Those barriers include making sure there are enough available courses for students and that prerequisites for certain majors are open. It also means eliminating the requirement for graduates to have a minor.

“The faculty decided to only make that an option,” Zorn said, adding that she encourages students to not take too many disciplines as an undergraduate and instead come back for a graduate degree.

“Get more bang for your buck,” Zorn said.

The new semester schedule the campus converted to last year also allows the university to offer an intersession in January that allows students to take additional classes, Zorn said.

“That will help some students graduate sooner,” Zorn said.

The university has also launched a “15 to Finish” campaign, which stresses the importance of enrolling and completing 15 units each semester to graduate in four years.

Noting an increase in the volume of first-generation students, CSUB launched a “First Generation Initiative” to inspire those students and guide them along the way.

As it happens, all seven members of CSUB President Horace Mitchell’s cabinet, including Mitchell, are first-generation college students themselves, Zorn said.

“We really identify with these students and understand what it means to come into something you’re not familiar with,” Zorn said, adding that CSUB wants to tell first-generation students who are feeling lost and having doubts that they belong.

“You’ve earned the right to be here,” Zorn said.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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