Person writing at a communal desk

Completion Grants Remove an Obstacle for At-Risk Students Nearing Graduation

—Every year, thousands of students within striking distance of completing their academic program are prevented from graduating because of a small unpaid balance on their school account—tuition, lab fees, parking tickets, library fines or any number of other institutional charges. At many schools, a senior who has invested thousands of dollars in his or her education may be dropped from classes over a balance of a few hundred dollars.

Completion grants—micro-grants made to at-risk students within a semester or two of graduating—have proven to be an effective tool for eliminating this barrier. Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to fund a $4 million grant to pilot and evaluate completion grant programs across the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a group of 11 major public research universities that collaborate to implement innovative projects designed to promote the success of underrepresented students.

The UIA pilots will be modeled on alliance member Georgia State University's Panther Retention Grant program. Since its launch in 2011, the program has helped more than 8,000 low-income students persist in their education with awards averaging $900. It is a key component of a strategy that has resulted in remarkable improvement in the graduation rate among students of color at GSU.

Through this project, we hope to gain a better understanding of how to establish and administer an effective completion grant program, and to learn how successfully the impressive results of the Panther program can be replicated elsewhere.

To learn more about UIA completion grants, visit community.mygreatlakes.org.


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