Enrollment in the news

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The barriers to mobility: Why higher ed’s promise remains unfulfilled

As a college degree became more critical to economic well-being, you might have expected to see a doubling down on efforts to ensure that Americans of all backgrounds would be able to earn one. That’s not what happened. Instead, there’s been a shift at the federal, state, and even institutional level away from programs and policies that helped make college more affordable, especially for the neediest students. The average undergraduate from the bottom quintile of income must find a way to finance an amount equivalent to 157 percent of his or her family income to pay for college, while it costs a wealthy family just 14 percent of its income to send a student to college. Keith E. Whitfield, provost at Wayne State University, says the high price of college can deter low-income students from applying because they think it’s out of reach. “They see the sticker price, and they get discouraged,” he says. Along the way, even small financial setbacks can cause students to drop out. To combat that, Wayne State has begun offering small completion grants — $750 or $1,000 — to keep students on track.
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'Unlikely' documentary, about obstacles to completing college, gets free Detroit screening

Starting college doesn't always lead to a degree. An estimated 40 percent of students who started at a four-year university in 2011 didn't graduate in six years, according to federal statistics. The documentary "Unlikely" shows the obstacles students face that can lead to dropping out of college — often leaving people with debilitating debt but without a degree that can lead to higher earning potential and economic mobility. The film follows five students who manage school, jobs to pay for school, parenting, family tragedies and enormous debt on their mission to earn a degree — ultimately showing that dropping out doesn't have to spell the end of one's chances of pursuing higher education. The film's Detroit premiere takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11 at Cinema Detroit. The free screening is presented by the Kresge Education Program at the Kresge Foundation, WDET and Freep Film Festival. After the film, Director Jaye Fenderson will be part of a discussion that will also feature Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State University, and Johnathan Williams, a graduate of Wayne State University's Warrior Way Back Program. Stephen Henderson, host of WDET's "Detroit Today," will moderate the conversation. 
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Jacques: Translate 'free college' into more graduates

Wayne State University’s recent announcement that it will offer free tuition to Detroit freshmen is no doubt welcome news to students and families throughout the city. Yet simply growing enrollment does not necessarily translate to more students with degrees. Cost is certainly a barrier for many low-income students. But it’s not the only one. Many Motor City students also struggle more than their counterparts around Michigan as they are more likely to be first generation college students. And many are coming from Detroit schools that haven’t adequately prepared them for rigorous coursework. Administrators at Wayne State are aware of these challenges, and are putting safeguards in place to ensure more students who enroll will be successful in their college experience. Starting in fall 2020, incoming freshmen will be able to attend fall and winter semesters at the university without the weight of tuition and fees. Students don’t have to meet any special requirements — just meet basic admission benchmarks. The Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge is expected to attract an additional 100-125 students a year, says Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at Wayne State. The cost will be covered through a $90 million campaign fund for endowed scholarships, and she says tuition will not be raised for other students. “We want students to understand that college is possible,” Medley says. Wayne State has long struggled with low graduation rates, especially for its minority students. But a concerted effort by the university to target student challenges is helping turn those numbers around. It is now recognized as one of the fastest improving large institutions in the country for its boosted graduation numbers. Medley points to a focus on academic advising and helping students meet their basic needs, including food and housing. Monica Brockmeyer, WSU’s senior associate provost for student success, says the university has increased its six-year graduation rate to 48% in 2019 from just 26% in 2011. Black and Hispanic students continue to struggle, but are also seeing marked progress: 24% of black students now graduate, up from 8% in 2011; for Hispanic students, the rate is 39%, up from 17%. Because of its progress, WSU in 2018 received the Degree Completion Award by the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.
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Wayne State Tuition Pledge Aims to ‘Meet the 360 Degree Needs’ of Detroit Students

Wayne State University made a big splash this week, announcing that it will give free tuition to students who live in Detroit starting with students who graduate from high school next year. The University is calling it the Heart of Detroit Promise. But what’s the likely impact of the program? Wayne State University Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Keith Whitfield talked with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the announcement.
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To re-engage drop outs, Wayne State program offers $1,500 in debt forgiveness

One of the big problems facing higher education is people who leave college before they get a degree and still owe the school money. Wayne State University decided to tackle that problem by giving former students a chance to come back and finish a degree, while forgiving some or all of their previous debt. Dawn Medley is Wayne State’s associate vice president for enrollment management, and Shawnte Cain is a student who took advantage of the "Warrior Way Back" program. They broke down how leaving college with an outstanding balance can affect a person’s future, and how the university will determine whether the program is successful and sustainable.
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Wayne State announces free tuition for Detroit students, residents

Michigan Gov. Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined Wayne State University officials to announce a free tuition program for students at Detroit high schools. The program is being called the "Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge." The free tuition is for Detroit students who live in the city and attend public schools, charter schools or private schools. "This is a tremendous day for Wayne State and for Detroit students," said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values. Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge delivers on all those values. With the resources and opportunities on campus and the exciting resurgence in Detroit, it's never been a better time to be a Warrior."
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Wayne State giving free college tuition to all Detroit high school grads, residents

Michigan Gov. Whitmer and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joined Wayne State University officials to announce a free tuition program for students at Detroit high schools. The program is being called the "Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge." The free tuition is for Detroit students who live in the city and attend public schools, charter schools or private schools. "This is a tremendous day for Wayne State and for Detroit students," said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values. Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge delivers on all those values. With the resources and opportunities on campus and the exciting resurgence in Detroit, it's never been a better time to be a Warrior."
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Wayne State to give free tuition to city of Detroit high school graduates

Wayne State University will give free tuition to all city of Detroit students who graduate from high school, starting with this year's graduating class. The free tuition is good for those attending traditional public schools, charter schools or private schools and making any amount of money. The only restriction: The student must live in the city of Detroit. The scholarship, called the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, was announced Wednesday morning by Wayne State President Roy Wilson at an event attended by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. "This initiative aligns perfectly with many of our institutional values," Wilson said in a news release. "Opportunity, accessibility and affordability are all pillars of the high quality education we provide, and the Heart of Detroit scholarship delivers on all those values." Dawn Medley, Wayne State’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press: “We didn't want to have a lot of reasons why people wouldn't qualify. We thought we could go bold. It's really as close to free college as we can get in terms of tuition." Wayne State officials expect to see an uptick in students coming to their school. "What happens if we are overrun with students?" Medley said. "That would be amazing." She said Wayne State will be able to accommodate any additional students. She said the university is also prepared to help students, recognizing that many students, especially first-generation students, have challenges to succeed at college beyond just cost of attendance. "We want to be stretched in supporting students," Medley said. "We will be ready to take on the challenge."

How a Detroit area university’s debt-relief program has welcomed back and graduated students

Black college students are three times more likely to default on their loans than their white peers, and there are nearly 700,000 college students in the Detroit area that have dropped out after taking some classes but before earning a degree. Wayne State University’s Warrior Way Back debt-relief program is welcoming those students back, including recent graduate Shawnte’ Cain and Antonio Mitchell, who is currently a senior in the Mike Ilitch School of Business. “For me, Warrior Way Back is more of a social justice mentality and mindset in higher education, that we are knocking down those barriers for students to reach their potential. That’s successful in and of itself,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president of enrollment management.
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Black women bear largest burden in student debt crisis

So often, student loan debt is talked about in wide-ranging terms that mask the true impact on a community, particularly on women of color. Women hold almost two-thirds of the outstanding student loan debt in the United States, according to a key study by American Association of University Women. Black women have the highest student loan debt of any racial or ethnic group, according to the AAUW report. Staci Irvin, 51, went into default at one point. She started college at Wayne State in the late 1980s but then got married at 21 and had two children. She continued to take a class here and there. She took one year off, though, in the mid-1990s — a move that she didn't realize would trigger a requirement that she start making monthly payments on her student loans. She ended up going into default without really realizing it. When she later got a job working for Southfield Public Schools as a substitute teacher, she discovered one of the harsh consequences of going into default —  she saw a substantial portion of her wages being garnished to pay off those federal student loans. She wasn't aware of the penalties — late fees, collection costs, damages to one's credit score — for being in default. Private lenders often sue their borrowers who default on their student loan, too. She's back attending classes at Wayne State, working toward a bachelor's degree in communications. She's part of the college's Warrior Way Back program, which was introduced in 2018 as a way to re-engage students who left the university with debt and without a degree. The model includes a way toward some debt forgiveness for those with small balances. Irvin expects to have about $1,000 she owes the college forgiven.
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A second chance at Detroit colleges

Dana Paglia was one of the first students to enroll in the Warrior Wayback program, an initiative Wayne State University launched last year that has become a model for higher ed institutions in the Detroit metro area and is drawing attention from well outside the Midwest region. The program offers incremental amounts of debt forgiveness to students who left without graduating if they re-enroll and make progress toward earning a degree. Warrior Wayback reflects the growing concern of many higher ed officials and policy makers with the number of students who leave college without a degree. Dawn Medley, Wayne State’s associate vice president for enrollment management, said she got the idea for Warrior Wayback after listening to a radio story about a Detroit initiative to forgive parking fines of residents. “We had been talking about re-engaging adult students. A lot of students are hindered not just by student loan debt. They were hindered because they also owed us [a balance],” she said. “What if we could set it aside like a parking fine?” Colleges can’t forgive students' federal or private loans. But small balances students owe to their institutions can often make or break their ability to complete college, especially if they’ve exhausted financial aid options such as federal grants and loans. “When they came to us originally, we said based on their admission that they could be successful here. Somewhere along the way, we as an institution weren’t there to be helpful,” Medley said. “We see it very much as the student giving us another chance.” Wayne State students who withdrew more than two years ago, had at least a 2.0 grade point average and owe no more than $1,500 to the college are eligible for the Warrior Wayback program. Medley said the college has identified about 5,000 former students in the area who qualify and for whom they have a current address. About 60 percent were seniors when they left the college. And the vast majority (about 80 percent) have some level of financial need. Medley said she hopes eligibility requirements for the program can eventually be expanded further. Since Wayne State began Warrior Wayback in the fall of 2018, 142 students have enrolled in the program. Twenty have since graduated, and 10 more are expected to follow suit in December.
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Can ‘microscholarships’ steer student behavior?

Colleges have a pretty good idea of the student behaviors that are associated with retention. How can they encourage students to do those things? A company called RaiseMe is pitching a new approach: Colleges can use its platform to offer students “microscholarships,” or relatively small credits toward their bill, in return for completing such tasks. On Friday, RaiseMe announced that it’s conducting a pilot project on student-success microscholarships with Wayne State University. This year, participating freshmen at Wayne State can earn $10 to $50 a pop for activities like attending a campus arts or athletics event or taking a study-skills workshop. The total they earn — capped at $500 — will be subtracted from their college bill next fall. RaiseMe conducted a smaller pilot at Wayne State over the summer to see if a similar approach could reduce the number of students who “melted,” or did not enroll as planned. Wayne State, for one, is under no illusion that there’s a silver bullet for student success. For years the university has labored to improve its six-year graduation rate, which stood at just 28 percent in 2012. The university’s leaders want to see a six-year graduation rate of 50 percent by 2020, said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management, and it’s getting close. To achieve that level of progress, Wayne State has tried just about everything: overhauling its advising system and how it awards scholarships, using predictive analytics and a chatbot system, offering emergency grants and providing a food pantry. “It there is a practice out there,” Medley said, “then we want to make sure we’re doing that practice, and doing it well.” The university has had a good experience with RaiseMe on the admissions side, Medley said. Of the 2,968 admissions deposits the university received for the fall, 879 came from students who had used the platform. Of those, 515 came from students who had learned of the university from RaiseMe. More than anything, Medley said, RaiseMe helps Wayne State signal its interest in students who may have thought that a four-year college was out of reach — while there’s still time for those students to take steps to prepare. For current students, Medley said, the program could help “socially norm” the sorts of behaviors that the university knows are linked to student success. Ideally, Medley said, she’d like to see microscholarships cover the university’s annual tuition increases for students. If more students are retained, the university can make up the difference in volume. Still, she said, the effort is not a replacement for anything else the university is trying. “We’ve got 15 irons in the fire,” Medley said. “This is the 16th.”
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Wayne State’s DetroitEd411 service gives instant access to higher education resources

Got a question about post-secondary education that you need answered right away? With Wayne State University’s newest information service, DetroitEd411, you can access information and resources about vocational training, financial aid, GED opportunities, child care and the like via Facebook Messenger. A collaboration between Wayne State and the Detroit Regional Chamber, DetroitEd411 is meant to support adult learners and promote college attainment and career readiness in Detroit. Search for the service on Messenger and be introduced to Spirit, an innovative blend of artificial intelligence and supervised machine learning, ready to answer all your questions, day or night. “One of the best things about using this adaptive technology is that we’re able to meet people wherever they are and answer questions in real time, without judgment,” says Dawn Medley, Wayne State’s vice president of enrollment management. “The amount of information Spirit is able to provide is limitless, and the database of answers and resources will only continue to grow, adapt and expand as more people take advantage of DetroitEd411.”
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Arkansas colleges differ in handling of debts

Arkansas' public universities have millions of dollars in student accounts receivable, which is money owed to them by current or former students for various expenses. The schools commonly address the debt by withholding transcripts from students. Where schools differ is in how much debt they allow students to amass before denying those students course enrollments. At Henderson State University, where a budget shortfall and news of as much as $10 million in accounts receivable drew concern from trustees and others this summer, students were allowed to each accumulate up to $4,800 in debt and continue to register for classes. Such leeway is not the norm at the state's public universities, where schools sometimes prohibit students from registering if they have any past-due account balances. Dealing with the debts can be tricky for a school that wants to recoup its expenses but not prevent students from completing their educations and later being able to pay them back. Some schools have seen the value in helping students pay off those debts. At Wayne State University, the school paid up to $1,500 to students who stopped going to classes because of their account balances, according to an Institute for Higher Education Policy report. They were able to enroll in the fall of 2018, and nine of the 56 who enrolled graduated shortly after. The school reported generating more than $200,000 in net revenue through this spring from the initiative.
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DTE Energy Foundation awards $100k to Wayne State’s Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies

The DTE Energy Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Wayne State University Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies to support its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). Designed to improve retention and graduation rates, SEP is a college-readiness program that helps incoming first-generation and underrepresented college students acquire the key “hard” and “soft” skills needed to smoothly transition to rigorous university-level coursework. Structured as an intensive, eight-week immersion in mathematics, English composition, oral communications and cultural studies, the SEP courses and complementary learning exercises are widely regarded as pivotal to a successful academic experience. The grant, which will enable the center to continue to offer SEP over the next four years, greatly advances the university’s strategic plans to recruit, retain and graduate a diverse pool of students who will become leaders in their professions and in local communities. The program has a demonstrated record of laying a solid foundation for their competitive performance in a wide array of courses, especially those in the STEM fields. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that the foundation has deposited on our organization’s ability to continue to assist students pursuing a cutting-edge academic degree at Wayne State University,” said Jorge L. Chinea, director of the center.
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Could dropouts be the solution to the education crisis?

The vice president for applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Julie Ajinkya explained many of the underlying causes students dropout or face difficulty coming back to school have to do with the lack of affordable education. “The reasons students drop out are almost always financially related,” Ajinkya says. “Even the personal reasons people cite are financially related, like not being able to find affordable childcare, or transportation to actually be able to take your classes.” In addition to overseeing Degrees When Due, a free program designed to help institutions build their own capacity to help bring dropouts back, Ajinkya and IHEP have also analyzed another program for dropouts, Warrior Way Back, an initiative out of Wayne State University, that uses incremental debt forgiveness as incentive for dropouts. 
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St. Clair College, Wayne State University expand cross-border partnership

Wayne State University and St. Clair College signed five articulation agreements Wednesday at the St. Clair Centre for the Arts, offering students the opportunity to develop their education between both institutions in two countries. Students in the accounting, business administration, computer technology, interior design, and marketing programs will now have the option to apply credits from their two- or three-year diploma toward a university degree in their field at Wayne State and receive both a diploma and degree in four years. Wayne State University president M. Roy Wilson said the partnership will save students time and money while building a résumé “that will make them attractive to employers on both sides of the border.” He echoed the value for business students to gain international experience through education. “I think right now, because of the way the world is and the way education is, you pretty much have to have some sort of international exposure,” Wilson said. “That’s the way business is.” With the enhanced partnership, St. Clair College students will receive Wayne State’s Great Lakes Tuition Award, a tuition break for Ontario students. Through the award, Ontario students will pay 10 per cent more than students in Michigan — around 50 per cent less than other international students. Wayne State is planning to hold an open house in November at St. Clair College to answer any questions from interested students.
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Water stays in the pipes longer in shrinking cities – a challenge for public health

Shawn P. McElmurry, Wayne State University associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Nancy Love, University of Michigan professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Richard Jackson, professor emeritus of environmental health sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, wrote an article for The Conversation. “The geographic locations where Americans live are shifting in ways that can negatively affect the quality of their drinking water. Cities that experience long-term, persistent population decline are called shrinking cities. Urban shrinkage can be bad for drinking water in two ways: through aging infrastructure and reduced water demand. Major federal and state investments in U.S. drinking water occurred after the World Wars and through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund created by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Many of the pipes and treatment plants built with those funds are now approaching or have exceeded the end of their expected lifespan. Shrinking cities often don’t have the tax base to pay for maintenance and replacement needs. So the infrastructure, which is largely underground, out of sight and out of mind, deteriorates largely outside of the public eye…Despite all its accomplishments, the Safe Drinking Water Act is an imperfect law. Simply relying upon and then communicating about a water quality parameter that “meets all regulatory standards” – as per the law – is an inadequate way to communicate about water quality, as you can see in Flint.”