Office of Planning and Budgeting

Georgia State University (GSU) has launched an innovative pilot program, called the Panther Retention Grant, designed to help retain and graduate GSU students who drop out of school for financial reasons.  At Georgia State, a diverse public university with over 24,000 undergraduates, administrators have been struggling to raise the undergraduate 6-year graduation rate, which has been below 50 percent for years. This task is complicated by the diversity of the student body–more than 50 percent of students qualify for federal Pell grants, 60 percent are non-white, and 26 percent are adult learners.

In an effort to better understand the root of its low graduation rates, GSU administrators decided to study the students who were dropped from classes for non-payment. They found that the majority of students who were dropped had good grades and owed less than $1,000 on their tuition bill. The university therefore created the Panther Retention Grant—small grants awarded to students who would otherwise be cut due to nonpayment—to bridge the gap on their tuition bill and give students the opportunity to return to school. The grant comes with strings attached—students must complete three online financial literacy modules and fill out a study skills questionnaire to receive the funding.

GSU has already seen promising results. A few years ago, the university provided small grants to 200 students who had been cut for nonpayment to allow them to return to school. The program not only helped retain those students, it also generated more than $660,000 in otherwise forgone tuition revenue. Last year, GSU expanded the program, awarding $600,000 to more than 700 students. GSU hopes its program will demonstrate the effectiveness of targeted, need-based aid in improving graduation rates, particularly for low-income and minority students.

 The University of Washington has long recognized the importance of ensuring affordable education for low-income students with its commitment to Husky Promise. Thirty-three percent of resident undergraduates were eligible for Husky Promise this year, which covers all tuition and fees for resident students who qualify for the Pell Grant or State Need Grant.  This contributes to the UW’s remarkable success in retaining and graduating students: 79 percent of entering freshmen graduate from the UW within six years, one of the highest 6-year graduation rates among public universities in the nation.

To read more about Georgia’s program, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle’s article. For more information about the UW’s commitment to affordable education, please see the Husky Promise website.

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013, a bipartisan federal bill championed by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Rubio (R-FL) and Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Andres (D-NJ) and Hunter (R-CA), was introduced in both chambers of Congress last week. The bill seeks to give students and their families more information about graduation rates, student debt, transfer rates, expected earnings and other important considerations. The goal is to centralize the data so that families can make an informed decision about college.

While there is support for some of the major provisions in the bill, especially for more information on student debt, others are more controversial. The bill would create a federal unit-record database, which some privacy advocates fear could cause confidential data to leak and could enable the government to use data for non-educational purposes. Currently, such databases are banned, which is a major hurdle to the passage of the bill.

Furthermore, while everyone agrees that students should have as much information as possible in making their decisions, colleges are concerned about increasing already onerous reporting requirements. Universities attempting to manage scarce resources are wary of diverting money from the academic mission towards reporting. The Government Accountability Office recently released a report indicating that college experts find existing reporting requirements, such as providing data on enrollment rates, campus safety, and cost of attendance, exceedingly burdensome.

It remains to be seen which, if any, pieces of the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act will move forward in the coming weeks. The Office of Federal Relations is tracking this measure. Please follow their blog to receive updates as this and other similar legislation continues through the House and Senate.

The University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU) (along with eight other top universities) have been selected by the National Science Foundation to participate in the Graduate 10K+ program, a $10 million initiative to increase graduation rates in STEM fields, particularly engineering and computer science. The UW will receive $970,000 and WSU will receive $700,000 over five years to fund their projects. The initiative is funded by the Intel Corporation, the GE Foundation and prominent hedge-fund manager and White House adviser Mark Gallogly. While the funding for this program is limited, experts hope it will encourage innovative pilot projects at the selected universities and prompt other companies and individuals to donate.

The UW, in collaboration with WSU, will use its funds to implement an “academic redshirt” program for engineering. The program will enroll low-income high school graduates in a five-year engineering degree program. The first year will focus on solidifying students’ math and science skills. Students will receive individualized advising as well as assistance with acclimating to university workloads. This will help them to be better prepared for the rigors of engineering study at the UW and will remedy learning gaps they might have from high school, hopefully increasing freshman retention and degree completion. After successful completion of the first year, the students will be accepted into one of the UW’s engineering departments. UW and WSU each hope to enroll 32 freshmen in the program, reaching a total of 320 students in five years.

To read more about the Graduate10K+ program, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle’s article or read more about UW’s redshirt program here.

Accenture, a management consulting firm, recently conducted a survey of 2011/2012 college graduates and 2013 pending graduates. The survey focuses on the 2011/2012 graduates’ job search experience, and asks them about their current jobs, salaries, and future education plans. Accenture then contrasts their responses with the employment expectations of pending 2013 graduates. Some interesting findings include:

  • While more than 77 percent of 2013 grads expect to receive employer-provided training at their future job, only 48 percent of 2011/2012 grads actually received such training from their employer.
  • 50 percent of 2011/2012 grads who are currently unemployed claim that they cannot find a job because companies believe they do not have enough experience, even though 72 percent of 2011/2012 grads participated in an internship during school.
  • 41 percent of 2011/2012 graduates believe they are underemployed, meaning their job does not require a college degree.
  • Yet despite the still-sluggish economy, 81 percent of 2011/2012 graduates report they found a secure job within 6 months of graduation.
  • Of 2011/2012 graduates, 42 percent expect to pursue a graduate degree, but only 18 percent of 2013 grads expect to do so.

Accenture’s report points to the disconnect between employers’ and graduates’ expectations of employment, particularly when it comes to experience and training. The report encourages employers to hire based on potential and a broad skill base, not on specific expertise or perfect qualifications. Furthermore, it recommends that employers provide increased on-the-job training for recent graduates so they can gain necessary experience and job skills to supplement their educational qualifications. Finally, Accenture advises that employers work more closely with educational institutions to help better align their needs with university curriculums, and to provide more internship opportunities for students.

To read the full report, click here, or check out this summary from the Chronicle of Higher Education.