Press Release

Great Lakes Commits $2.6 Million to Keep At-Risk Near-Completers on Track to Graduation

November 15, 2016


Madison, Wis., November 15, 2016—Each year, students who are just a few semesters away from graduation end up dropping courses, withdrawing from academic programs and stopping out. Near-completers who drop out at the highest rate are low-income students and students of color. While colleges and universities often direct success efforts toward students early in their academic careers, there's an equally important need to address the challenges faced by at-risk students approaching the finish line, such as increasing textbook and supply costs, class scheduling conflicts or maxing out financial aid.

Those who fall short of graduation not only lack qualifications to meet employer needs, but without the earning power a credential or degree can provide, they often struggle with debt repayment. This issue is magnified when students abandon academic programs that lead to high-demand careers—positions remain unfilled, and employers and the economy both take a loss.

Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates created its new College Completion Grant as an opportunity for colleges and universities to focus on at-risk students nearing completion, and explore ways to help them stay on track to graduation. Applicants were invited to research and identify institutional barriers and personal obstacles that prevent near-completers from earning degrees in high-demand career fields. Then they proposed an array of tactics to address these issues.

Fourteen two- and four-year colleges had standout applications and have been awarded a combined $2.6 million in College Completion Grants. Great Lakes funds will support the planning, launch and implementation of interventions at each college from January 2017 to July 2019. The colleges will serve a combined 7,000 students who have completed at least 75% of their program's requirements in high-demand areas such as nursing, information technology and business.

"We are impressed that our grant recipients critically analyzed their institutional data and then proposed comprehensive plans to help struggling students cross the finish line and begin careers in high-demand fields," said Richard D. George, President and Chief Executive Officer of Great Lakes. "Given our philanthropic focus on advancing completion, we're interested to see how these plans can positively impact graduation rates for low-income students, first-generation students and students of color."

While each college developed strategies to target completion rate gaps between their underserved students and their general student population, there were common themes to the types of work that will be done over the next two and a half years. Activities to boost college completion will include:

  • Addressing scheduling conflicts. Colleges will optimize course sequencing and scheduling to make required classes available at the right times.
  • Improving academic performance. Expanded tutoring will support students in advanced-level classes. Supplemental instruction will help students succeed in courses with historically low pass rates.
  • Providing proactive advising. Advisors will regularly connect with students to identify areas of need (e.g., general education requirements, career planning advice), refer them to support services, and develop personalized completion plans.
  • Offering additional financial support. Small grants will help students overcome unexpected emergencies, or close the gap between financial aid and college costs.

Meet our 2017-2019 College Completion Grant Recipients »

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