Schools Each Receive $50,000 to Launch or Expand Pilot Programs to Turn Potential Dropouts in Senior Year into Graduates
Continuing their effort to promote the use of micro-grants to prevent low-income college students nearing graduation from dropping out, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) awarded nine public urban research universities funds to launch or expand pilot programs of their own. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was among the institutions to receive a micro-grant for $50,000 to establish an office within the Student Success Center (SSC) to assist graduating seniors with the completion of their degrees. This office will market the completion program, identify and enroll eligible seniors for assistance, establish the process for enrolling, engaging, and tracking seniors to graduation.
The SSC currently has two full-time professional staff dedicated to student retention. An additional professional of at least a half-time appointment is required to expand SSC efforts in meeting the specific requirements as proposed by this completion program.
“Micro-grant programs, particularly at public urban research universities, have proven very effective at providing low-income students facing financial hardship with the resources they need to avoid dropping out and instead earn their diploma,” said Shari Garmise, Vice President of the USU/APLU Office of Urban Initiatives. “These grants will support nine institutions looking to help students in need. By supporting these institutions as they develop a micro-grant program or expand a pilot program, we are effectively supporting students, the workforce, and the nation.”
The grants come on the heels of the release of APLU and USU’s report, Foiling the Drop-Out Trap, Completion Grant Practices for Retaining and Graduating Students, which detailed the success of these micro-grant student aid programs at 10 public urban research institutions and included an implementation guide for other universities looking to institute or scale micro-grant programs on their own campus.
The grants are for two years and are funded by the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation and Lumina Foundation. The nine awardees have agreed to launch or begin expanding their pilot programs by fall 2016 and continue their development through June 2018. Funds will be used to strengthen the infrastructures of institutions already serving a significant percentage of non-traditional, disadvantaged students who are low income, first generation, Pell grant eligible and minorities.
Awardees were selected on a range of criteria. This included the institution’s ability to: ensure the inclusion and buy-in of campus leadership, including the president/chancellor and financial aid office; monitor student data at multiple points over the two years; and build up the fund to support students in need; and identify, track, and communicate with students.
The micro-grant program is a component of USU and APLU’s broader student success initiative known as Collaborating for Change, which is building campus-community collaborations to transform higher education practices, reduce student costs, and educate and graduate more disadvantaged students. As part of this larger effort, the institutional participants will be matched with peer mentors to form learning communities designed to offer technical assistance, professional development engagements, and other interactions to help them work through challenges, opportunities or unexpected developments as they build the student success efforts. Georgia State University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Indianapolis University Purdue University Indianapolis have agreed to serve as mentor institutions.
The Coalition for Urban Serving Universities (USU)
The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) is a president-led organization committed to enhancing urban university engagement to increase prosperity and opportunity in the nation’s cities and to tackling key urban challenges. The Coalition includes about 40 public urban research universities representing all U.S. geographic regions. The USU agenda focuses on creating a competitive workforce, building strong communities, and improving the health of a diverse population. The Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) has partnered with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) to establish an Office of Urban Initiatives, housed at APLU, to jointly lead an urban agenda for the nation’s public universities.
The Association for Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU)
The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 235 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research, and expanding engagement. Annually, APLU member campuses enroll 4.7 million students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.4 million faculty and staff, and conduct $42.7 billion in university-based research.