As part of its ongoing efforts to increase degree completion, APLU named Arizona State University; the University of Memphis; the University of Nevada, Reno; the University of Rhode Island; and Wayne State University as finalists for its 2018 Degree Completion Award. The annual prize works to identify, recognize, and reward institutions that employ innovative approaches to improve retention and degree completion. One of the five finalists will be named the 2018 Degree Completion Award winner during the APLU Annual Meeting, November 11-13, in New Orleans, Louisiana. In this second of a five-part series, APLU profiles the University of Memphis’s efforts to improve retention and degree completion.
The University of Memphis launched the Finish Line Program in 2013 when the university experienced a decline in the number of non-traditional students enrolling. The program re-recruits students in good academic standing who had earned 90 or more credit hours earned, but stopped pursuing their degree just shy of graduation. The university found that exhausted financial aid and related financial challenges were the main reasons such students were withdrawing.
Once re-enrolled through the Finish Line Program, University of Memphis academic advisors work with the students to evaluate previously earned credit and ways to expedite graduation. What’s more, students can also earn credit for prior learning through exams. A third of students in the program also receive financial assistance through the program beyond what they get through state and federal support. On average, students re-enrolling need only 11 credits to graduate and nearly a third of students needed only one course to graduate. Half of students re-enrolling through the program are first-generation, 70 percent are from underrepresented minority groups, and three-quarters are low-income.
Since the program launched in 2013, the program has graduated nearly 500 students, leading to 5,289 additional credit hours. Another 325 students are currently working on degree completion plans with their advisor. The Finish Line has played a critical role in significant increases in University of Memphis six-year graduation rates over the past three years, with an increase of 4.5 percent overall.
Learn more about the other 2018 Degree Completion Award finalists.