Graduate Programs

Graduate Student Retention and Completion Fund

Portland State University

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.

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.

Margaret Everett

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