West Virginia University students who are tantalizingly close to completing their degrees, but are at the end of their financial resources, will receive a new benefit beginning next semester with the implementation of “completion grants” to help fill the gap between checkbooks and commencement.
“We know that unmet financial need continues to be a barrier to completion for some WVU students,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed told the Board of Governors during its regular meeting Friday (Dec. 20).
“Nationally, 15 percent of students who complete three-fourths of the credit hours required for graduation leave their institution without earning their degree,” she said, citing a program sponsored by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and Urban Serving Universities that partnered with nine public universities to fill unmet gap resulting in more than 90 percent of recipients completing their degrees.
“Next semester, we will begin implementing a pilot of our own completion grants program, which will serve students in good academic standing who are close to finishing their degrees but have exhausted nearly all other forms of financial aid.”
Estimates are that as many as 150 students fit the profile, she said, with about 50 to 60 only about $3,000 short of what they need to finish their degrees. Eligible students will not need to apply, as the Office of Student Financial Support and Services will automatically provide up to $1,500 to those who qualify.
“We believe this program will more than pay for itself because of the tuition dollars saved,” she said. “It’s estimated for every dollar we spend, we will retain four-times that amount.
“It’s the right thing to do and the smart thing to do,” she said.
The completion grants are part of a continuing top priority within the provost’s office to improve retention, she said.
For example, she said, first-generation students – those with neither parent nor guardian having earned a four-year college degree – make up at least 22 percent of WVU’s total student population and are at higher risk of leaving the University.
Currently, the Office of Student Success provides a central point of contact and programming designed to help FirstGen students transition from high school to college through graduation. The Office also offers academic and social programming to ensure students have every opportunity to succeed and find their fit on campus, as well as celebrate their achievements.
In particular, she said, FirstGen students are connected with peer mentors with trained faculty and staff who commit to regular engagements with the students. The Office also is home to the “Sue Day-Perroots First-Generation Student Success Foundation Fund,” which provides financial support to FirstGen students who need help with buying textbooks or school supplies.
In other business, the Board approved:
Giving Ratliff Hall and the vice president’s house located on the former campus of West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery to Bridge Valley Community and Technical College.
A new Bachelor of Science degree in coaching and performance science in the College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences. The program changes and updates the current degree offered in athletic and coaching education to better reflect the evolving profession.
A healthcare Master of Business Administration and a masters of economics in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
A new digital technologies and connected learning major as well as an elementary math specialist major in the Master of Arts in education programs in the College of Education and Human Services.
The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 28 in Morgantown.