The senior completion program, “Destination Graduation,” is helping low-income senior-level students graduate from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB). Implemented by the Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success at UAPB, the pilot initiative purports to reduce the number of senior-level students who officially withdraw from the University, for various reasons including unmet financial need. Fall 2016 was the first semester of implementation for the project funded in part by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) and UAPB.
Preliminary data suggest that the program is working. Fifty-five senior-level students received awards to pay balances or assist with tuition. The one-time award provides assistance to students who are near graduation with small balances that may prevent their persistence to receiving a degree. Students are required to “put their skin in the game,” which means to pay 25 percent or $400.00 towards their balance to receive the maximum award. Students also agree to maintain GPAs, participate in professional and career development programs and participate in community service activities.
Of the seniors assisted, 24 graduated in December 2016 while 31 are graduating in 2017. Kim Jones-Sneed, the Senior Completion Coach at the UAPB Student Success Center (SSC), stated “the center was extremely busy with phone calls and walk-ins as word spread on campus about the program. Numerous seniors contacted our office to inquire about the Senior Completion Award. Unfortunately, the need is greater than the available funds and some did not meet the minimum criteria, while others were not in a position to pay the 25 percent.”
The UAPB Division of Enrollment Management and Student Success (EM) currently partners with the Office of Institutional Advancement and Development (IAD) to secure donor-generated funds designated for student assistance. Annual giving campaigns sponsored by the IAD and the UAPB Foundation source these funds that are mainly alumni generated. Additionally, a percentage of general scholarships funds are designated specifically for seniors.
UAPB Seniors can begin submitting applications for Spring semester awards on January 3, 2017. The project gives priority to senior students that meet the minimum criteria and are expected to graduate in May 2017. For more information, contact Ms. Kim Jones Sneed, SSC Senior Completion Coach at 870-575-8370 or Rita D. Conley, SSC Director at 870-575-8368.