NAU has led a multidimensional effort to boost student success, with a particular emphasis on helping first-generation students complete their degrees. In 2014, the university created the Office of First-Generation Programs to oversee multiple efforts to minimize barriers for these students and champion a cultural transformation throughout the institution. NAU also introduced a university-wide student success and predictive analytics platform and coordinated efforts to support just-in-time outreach that address student needs.
The university’s overall four-year degree completion rate has increased by 12 percentage points while its six-year graduation rate has increased 7.2 percentage points. Coupled with its efforts to increase enrollment with increased percentages of historically underserved populations, NAU has seen an increased the completion rate for their students of color by 14.5 percentage points. Due to their efforts, NAU has increased the number of bachelors’ degrees they award annually by over 1,500.
The Degree Completion Award is open to all APLU members and is one part of APLU’s robust work to advance college access, equity, and completion. Northern Arizona University is also one of more than 125 institutions working in the association’s Powered by Publics effort, which convenes collaborating institutions within 16 transformation clusters working to solve different pieces of the student success puzzle. Collectively, the schools have pledged to aim to increase college access, eliminate the achievement gap, and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025.
A panel of reviewers examined the applications to determine the finalists. The other finalists for the 2020 Degree Completion Award were: California State University, Sacramento; Kent State University; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Past winners of the APLU Degree Completion Award and previous iterations of the honor are: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (2019); Wayne State University (2018); University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (2017); University of California, Riverside (2016); Morgan State University (2015); University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2014); Florida State University (2014); Georgia State University (2013); San Francisco State University (2013).