Graduate Student Retention and Completion Fund

Graduate Student Retention and Completion Fund

student success, graduate education, financial aid
  • Graduate Programs
Graduate Programs, Retention, Advising
0
Portland State University (OR)
http://www.pdx.edu/ogs/home
http://www.pdx.edu/ogs/graduate-retention-and-completion-fund
  • Institutions

PURPOSE

We developed a fund and a process to assist graduate students with a financial hold on their registration to improve retention and degree completion. We provide one-time financial assistance to students to allow them to clear up student debt, and academic and financial counseling to develop a completion plan.

  • Provide students in good academic standing who have financial hold on their account with a timely notice of their account status and contact information on the offices on campus available to help them.

  • Provide students in good academic standing with the opportunity to apply for one-time financial assistance in order to remain in their program and/or complete their degree.

  • Ensure that students who have experienced a financial hold on their account know how to access financial literacy tools at https://www.financialliteracy101.org/index.cfm?

DESCRIPTION

Each term, several hundred students have a financial hold on their access to course registration. Most students are able to resolve this hold in a timely manner with little assistance, but many students have to leave their program or delay registration because of an unexpected financial hardship. We developed a communications "campaign" in our CRM system (Talisma) to inform students when they have a financial hold. That communication refers students to the Student Financial Services when they have a question about their account, the Office of Financial Aid when they want information about whether they qualify for student loans, and the Office of Graduate Studies if they would like to apply for one-time financial assistance from our Graduate Retention and Completion Fund. Students in good academic standing and a nomination from their adviser can usually be awarded a tuition remission from this fund, provided that the student is either near the completion of their program or can demonstrate that they have a financial plan in place (loans, assistantship, other) to move forward with their education once the current debt is paid. We carefully track outcomes of all students assisted with this fund. The fund comprises only about .25% of our total graduate remissions funds, but has nonetheless allowed us to respond in a timely and effective way to retain students and provide one-time assistance for students with an unexpected financial hardship.

Previous to the development of this program, we did not have any systematic way to communicate with and assist graduate students with a financial hold on their registration. Using Banner data and our CRM system, we are not able to communicate with students each quarter that they have a financial hold on their registration. Students with a financial hold receive a message that directs them to the offices on campus that can help them resolve their financial hold: Student Financial Services, Financial Aid, and the Office of Graduate Studies. Students in good academic standing are able to request one-time financial assistance, with the nomination of their academic adviser. The Office of Graduate Studies works with students on a case-by-case basis to ensure that their debt is resolved and that a financial plan for the completion of their degree program is in place. The program allows us to provide timely assistance to students with an unexpected financial hardship, such as a job loss, a medical emergency, or a significant family event. We track the students who receive assistance from this fund to determine their completion rate and time to degree.

  • Number of graduate students provided with assistance from this fund on an annual basis.

  • % of students who received assistance and completed their degree within >1 year, >2 years.

  • % of students who receive assistance and have an additional financial hold.

This fund was created during fiscal year 2013 as a pilot program. During the pilot year, 35 students received assistance with an average award of $2330. We have established a simple report in our DataMASTER system http://www.pdx.edu/oit/datamaster that allows us to track awardees and their outcomes on a quarterly and/or ad hoc basis. Tracking the outcome measures identified above will allow us to determine the effectiveness of this intervention and determine if an additional investment in this fund would be beneficial.

Although still in its early implementation, over half of the students we have provided with assistance have already completed their degree.

RESOURCES AND LESSONS LEARNED

We use existing database and communication tools (Banner, Talisma CRM and Cognos/DataMASTER) to identify, communicate with, and track outcomes for eligible students.

Staff time to create the plan and design the communication: approx. 40 hours.

Most ongoing communication and tracking is automated.

Staff time to evaluate requests: approx. 10 hours/month.

Average award is $2300/student.

  • Average cost of $2300 in tuition assistance per awardee.

  • Staff time to set up the program, design communication campaign, establish criteria, and communicate to academic units.

  • Staff time to respond to requests for assistance.

  • Working with students on a case-by-case basis works best to clear up unexpected financial hardships.

  • A timely system for notifying students of a financial hold and a timely way to provide them with one-time financial assistance is critical to effective retention efforts.

  • One-time financial assistance is one tool, but better financial planning and literacy information for all students is needed as well.

Additional student financial planning efforts are under development to reduce the number of financial holds. An increase in the funding available for this program is possible if a return on investment can be demonstrated.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Margaret Everett
Dean of Graduate Studies
Portland State University
Box 751
Portland, Oregon 97207-0751
Phone: 5037253319

everettm@pdx.edu

Margaret Everett
Dean of Graduate Studies
Portland State University
Box 751
Portland, Oregon 97207-0751
Phone: 5037253319

everettm@pdx.edu