Student success in the news

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Wayne State adopts tuition model that promotes graduation rates

By Sherri Welch The Wayne State University Board of Governors on Friday adopted a block tuition model for undergraduate students. With the change, which takes effect in fall 2023, undergraduate students will pay the same amount for enrolling in 12-18 credits per semester. The shift incentivizes students to take full course loads and enables them to graduate sooner, WSU said in a release, noting it is the 11th public university in the state to adopt the model. "To fulfill Wayne State's mission as a university of access and an engine of social mobility, we constantly strive to align our students' goals with academic pathways to success," said Mark Kornbluh, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
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(Opinion) Are we taking gen ed for granted?

By Jennifer Hart Jennifer Hart, associate professor of history at Wayne State University and chair of the university’s general education oversight committee and a planning and implementation fellow for gen ed assessment, wrote an opinion piece about the steps colleges can take to create more intentional, intelligible general education programs in light of recent survey results that show disconnects and how institutions can invest in general education. “At a base level, it would require viewing gen ed less as a series of requirements (the language used in the survey) and more as a coherent program with dedicated personnel drawn, in part at least, from the faculty and committed to program improvement. An intentional program requires, at minimum, curriculum management, assessment and policy development. A general education program that cuts across multiple departments and engages all undergraduate students is highly complex and requires unique and often much more intensive forms of communication and coordination than a traditional academic department or program,” she writes. Hart says that thinking about different program elements carefully and investing in personnel and support creates opportunities to further engage faculty and highlight the intentionality of a program. Hart writes that the survey results also raise questions about marketing in the event that that students don’t necessarily understand the value of gen ed. “At Wayne State University, we’ve worked with key campus offices to craft materials and share messages about gen ed before and during orientation and crated a new website called “Engaged Gen Ed” with expanding resources to support students, advisers and instructors. These efforts set a foundation and provide support for ongoing conversations students have with their advisers as they advance through their first year and beyond. Early, ongoing and consistent messaging is critical,” said Hart. She also references WSU’s annual award recognizing instructors for their contributions to the general education program as a way of creating a culture of recognition and appreciation, the celebration of student learning outcomes, and ongoing assessment and improvement efforts to support this vital teaching work.
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4 older metro Detroiters use pandemic as chance to chase dreams

By Linda Solomon  For a third winter, many are staying home to stay safe, and Americans are quitting work in record numbers. The pandemic has prompted large numbers of people – particularly those with years of work already behind them – to reassess not just their careers but also their lives. This feature story examines the experiences of 4 metro Detroiters who found the courage to ask: If not now, when? Included in the story is Duffy Flynn Wineman of Bloomfield Hills, who is at 68 taking five courses this semester at Wayne State University and intends to graduate one week before her 70th birthday. A mother of three sons and eight grandchildren, Wineman has spent decades acting in community theater and Wayne State has given her the opportunity to achieve her dream of earning a theatre degree. “My Wayne State academic adviser is so incredible. They were so inviting. They were so supportive. They encouraged me to get my degree and said, ‘you need to do this!’ And they walked me through everything. They showed me how to do my application and how to obtain my college transcripts from almost 50 years ago…” Wineman said. 
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Decade of transformation

Wayne State University’s reputation as a national model for student success is growing. The university’s six-year graduation rate has once again improved, and it continues to close the student success equity gap among students of color.  WSU’s new six-year graduation rate is 55.8%, a 3.9 percentage point increase over last year, and an astounding 115% improvement in the last decade from 26%. Gains have been particularly significant among Black students. The current Black graduation rate is 34.6% — a 9.8 percentage point jump from just last year, and an astonishing 355% improvement in the last decade from 7.6%.   To put these gains in context, in 2018 the Association of Public Land-grant Universities (APLU) awarded Wayne State with its 2018 Project Degree Completion Award for improving its graduation rate by 21 percentage points over seven years, or an average of about three percentage points a year, which was the best in the country. Wayne State’s Black graduation rate is up almost 10 percentage points since just last year. Improvements have also been made among Wayne State’s Latinx, first-generation and low-income students. “This progress is the result of determination, innovation, and passionate commitment campus-wide, from our faculty, staff, campus leaders, and the students themselves,” said Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for Student Success. “While we are proud of our strides, we know we cannot rest – especially in light of new challenges arising from the global pandemic and other societal adversities. Despite national reports that educational gaps in access, achievements and outcomes that existed before the pandemic are widening for underrepresented students, Wayne State also continues to make progress on its goal to close its student success equity gap. Nationally, in 2019 Black undergraduates were 24 percentage points less likely to graduate within six years than white students. To address the issue, the APLU initiated a major initiative, Powered by Publics, to scale student success and achieve parity in graduation rates by race/ethnicity. Because of Wayne State’s reputation for innovation, it was selected to lead the Urban Cluster of 11 institutions. 
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More Wayne State University students are graduating in push to eliminate disparities

More Wayne State University students are graduating in push to eliminate disparities  By David Jesse  There are words to fairly describe Wayne State University's graduation rate eight years ago when M. Roy Wilson was interviewing for the school's presidency: awful, disgraceful, lousy and pathetic. "It was dismal," he said recently in an interview with the Free Press. "I had never seen graduation rates for any (college) that low." They had been dreadful for some time. Only about a a quarter of students graduated from Wayne State within six years in 2011, two years before Wilson's hiring. The rates actually were lower than that overall rate for subgroups of students. Just under 8% of Black students were graduating in six years; just under 17% of Hispanic/Latino students; just over 18% of first-generation students and right around 16% of low-income students, according to university statistics. "What I recall is that when I came here, there were a lot of excuses around our graduation rate," Wilson said. "I just didn't really want to hear excuses. Let's talk about how we are going to change it." In 2021, those numbers have all risen sharply, the results of a campaign to increase the graduation rates started under Wilson's predecessor, Allan Gilmour, and ramped up under Wilson. The overall six-year graduation rate is up to just under 56%; the Black student graduation rate is about 35%; the Hispanic/Latino rate is just over 38%; the first-generation rate is almost 45% and the low-income rate is just over 47%. 
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Pandemic pivot: New supports for students who enter college lacking basic skills

The year before the pandemic, 23 percent of Michigan’s high school class of 2019 took at least one remedial course when they enrolled in a four-year university or community college. It’s too early to know the statewide remedial enrollment rate for the pandemic classes of 2020 and 2021, but some colleges in Southeast Michigan reported lower remedial enrollment during the pandemic. The enrollment rate for Wayne State University’s remedial math course dropped slightly from 7.7 percent of first-time students in the fall of 2019 to 7.2 percent in 2020. In addition to its remedial math course, Wayne State offers an introductory English course, which still counts for college credit; after changing its English placement process going into the 2020-21 academic year, the enrollment rate for introductory English dropped from 19.1 percent in 2019 to 11.9 percent. WSU has offered an alternative admissions program called Academic Pathways to Excellence (APEX) for students who show academic promise but do not meet the university’s standard admissions requirements. “It’s easy to think that we have two groups of students: those who need bridge programs and summer supports, and those who don’t need that at all,” said Monica Brockmeyer, senior associate provost for student success. “And I think we’re seeing the impact of the pandemic to be so pervasive that pretty much every student might benefit from a more intensive level of support or more granular supports that are specific to their academic needs.”  
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‘I wasn’t expecting this’: Colleges using pandemic funds to clear outstanding student balances

Annissa Young thought the email was a scam. The message was a little too good to be true: “Trinity [Washington University] has selected you to receive a grant to satisfy your outstanding balance … you are receiving a fresh financial start toward completing your program at Trinity!” Trinity Washington is among more than a hundred colleges and universities using federal pandemic relief aid to reset the ledger for students in arrears. The move is making it possible for thousands to register for the upcoming semester, get their diplomas or transfer elsewhere. It is a recognition of the financial strain students still face in the wake of the public health and economic crisis. Before the pandemic, some schools were exploring ways to clear a path for students in arrears to return. Wayne State University in Detroit, for instance, created the Warrior Way Back program in 2018 that forgives up to $1,500 for students who dropped out to re-enroll. It’s a model that could be replicated with the support of state or federal funding, Baker said. “There is real space for the federal government to consider ways to create programming that would say ‘we will waive these fees for you to come back to school and finish,” Baker said. “It’s pretty clear at this point that this is a problem.”

Wayne State University and Corvias announce recipients of 2021 Scholarship Award

Corvias and Wayne State University  today announced the two recipients of the 2021-2022 Wayne State Corvias Endowed Scholarship. This scholarship program is made possible by an endowment established by Corvias to help students overcome financial obstacles and achieve their academic aspirations. Students who are awarded the scholarship will receive $6,250 per semester, for a total of $12,500 for the academic year. This year’s scholarship recipients are Jennifer Gonzalez and Nicole Wallace. A luncheon in their honor will be held in the spring of 2022 when WSU returns to full post-COVID operations. “We appreciate our partnership with Corvias and their continuing commitment to our students,” said Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, PhD, Wayne State’s Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. “We look forward to Jennifer and Nicole joining the WSU community this fall and to the contributions we are confident they will make as Corvias Scholars on campus in the coming year.”
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Parent loans 'fraught with peril' as default rates hit 20, 30 percent at many colleges

One out of every four federal dollars lent for undergraduate education last year went to parents and a stunning 22 percent of that $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt, $336 billion in all, is held by people 50 and older, who typically borrowed to help pay for a child's or grandchild's higher education. There's no way of knowing how many institutions put pressure on parents to borrow. Some schools, as a matter of policy, do not mention PLUS loans unless a student has exhausted other means of paying for their education and is still coming up short. Case in point: At Wayne State University, where just 7 percent of the school's more than 1,000 parent borrowers defaulted in 2017-19, PLUS loans are regarded as a last resort. We found that parents don't always understand the implications of borrowing," says Catherine Kay, Wayne State's senior director of financial aid. "If you offer these loans from the front end, people sometimes borrow more than they need to. A parent could potentially borrow every year and the debt really adds up."
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Has the pandemic put an end to the SAT and ACT?

Many students never made it through the test-center door; the pandemic left much of the high school class of 2021 without an SAT or ACT score to submit. Liberal arts colleges, technical institutes, historically black institutions, Ivies — more than 600 schools switched to test-optional for the 2020-21 application season, and dozens refused to consider test scores at all. To choose among all those college hopefuls, many institutions took a holistic approach — looking at factors such as rigor of high school curriculum, extracurriculars, essays and special circumstances — to fill in the gaps left by missing test scores. Take the case of Wayne State University in Detroit, where before Covid, high school GPA and standardized test scores were used as a cutoff to hack 18,000 applications down to a number the university’s eight admissions counselors could manage. “It was just easier,” says senior director of admissions Ericka M. Jackson. In 2020, Jackson’s team changed tack. They made test scores optional and asked applicants for more materials, including short essays, lists of activities and evaluation by a high school guidance counselor. Assessing the extra material required assistance from temporary staff and other departments, but it was an eye-opening experience, Jackson says. “I literally am sometimes in tears reading the essays from students, what they’ve overcome … the GPA can’t tell you that.”