“We applaud Wayne State University for the exceptional student success progress they have achieved,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “For years now, public universities have been working hard to advance innovative practices that increase student success. We’re now seeing the results of that commitment and we look forward to building on that progress across all of public higher education. Wayne State’s work in this area serve as a model and inspiration for public universities across the country.”
Wayne State University created a Student Retention Initiative in 2011, investing more than $10 million in student success over the following five years. The initiative works to improve student success by hiring professional academic advisers, improving curriculum in general education courses, increasing support for faculty teaching development, bolstering support for underprepared students, establishing first-year experiences for new students, and strengthening financial aid. The university also established a student retention and tracking system to monitor student progress. Finally, Wayne State recently created the WSU Warrior Way Back Program, a debt forgiveness program for adult learners who cannot return to college because of past-due balances.
The comprehensive approach to student success has yielded remarkable gains, with Wayne State’s graduation rate nearly doubling in six years, increasing from 26 to 47 percent. Gains have been particularly pronounced among first-generation, low-income, and minority students. In light of this progress, the university is now planning new efforts to further reduce educational disparities and to improve its graduation rate.
The annual Degree Completion Award is open to all APLU members. A panel of eight reviewers examined the applications to determine the finalists. The other finalists for the 2018 Degree Completion Award were: Arizona State University, University of Memphis, University of Nevada, Reno, and University of Rhode Island.
Past winners of the APLU Degree Completion Award and previous iterations of the honor are: 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).