The award, which is made possible through the generous support of the Lumina Foundation and was open to all APLU member institutions, is also designed to share innovative practices with other public universities and encourage them to draw from those successes. It is one part of Project Degree Completion — a joint initiative that APLU and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities developed in which nearly 500 public colleges and universities have pledged to collectively award 3.8 million more bachelor’s degrees between 2012 and 2025.
“Our member institutions recognize the need to identify the best ways to increase degree completion in order to make a difference in the lives of students and the country overall. Morgan State University is making great strides in improving degree completion and APLU will share the strategies they are using to achieve their strong retention and degree completion success,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Our task now is to help other universities learn from and improve upon the kind of institutional changes Morgan State has spearheaded – as well as the other Project Degree Completion finalists – to multiply degree completion throughout the country.”
Morgan State University used its STAR (Student, Technology and Retention) Enterprise program to facilitate its award-winning degree completion improvements. The STAR Enterprise initiative allows instructors to flag students who are encountering trouble with coursework and refer them to the Office of Student Success and Retention, where advisors can provide them with the resources they need to succeed. Morgan State’s STAR Enterprise reduces the time advisors spend working to identify struggling students, freeing more of their time to focus on helping students who are having trouble with their coursework. STAR also increases communication between students, faculty and advisors. It’s a comprehensive approach to ensuring students have the information and resources necessary to reach their full potential.
Nearly half of Morgan State students say STAR Enterprise’s online tool is “very helpful” and STAR has helped raise freshman retention to its highest level in two decades. The share of freshman returning for their second year has increased by 13 percent and the proportion of freshman returning for their third year has climbed by 14 percent.
“Morgan State’s degree completion progress is a testament to the kind of advances that can be achieved when an entire institution puts its support behind increasing degree completion,” said Dr. RoSusan D. Bartee, APLU’s Interim Vice President of Access and Success. “The $15,000 prize will help ensure Morgan State has the resources needed to further their degree completion efforts and help more students in coming years.”
An independent panel of seven judges determined Morgan State the winner after a thorough review and interview process. The other finalists for the 2015 Project Degree Completion Award were: Middle Tennessee State University, the University at Buffalo, the University of South Florida, and The University of Texas at El Paso. At an earlier session during the APLU annual meeting, all five finalists detailed their innovative efforts to increase retention and completion rates. They shared lessons learned and suggested how their efforts could be replicated at other campuses across the country.