March 14, 2016

Wayne State among nine universities nationally awarded a microgrant to expand pilot programs assisting at-risk students

Wayne State University today was awarded a $50,000 microgrant to expand pilot programs designed to prevent at risk, low-income college students nearing graduation from dropping out.

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU) awarded nine public, urban research universities nationally a total of $450,000. Each university received $50,000 to launch or expand their pilot programs.

The grants announced today are for two years and are funded by the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation and the Lumina Foundation. The nine awardees have agreed to launch or begin expanding their pilot programs by fall 2016 and continue their development through June 2018. Funds will be used to strengthen the infrastructures of institutions already serving a significant percentage of nontraditional, disadvantaged students who are low income, first generation, Pell grant eligible and minorities.  

Awardees were selected on a range of criteria, including the institution’s ability to ensure the inclusion and buy-in of campus leadership, including the president/chancellor and financial aid office; monitor student data at multiple points over the two years; build the fund to support students in need; and identify, track and communicate with students.

For many students facing modest financial shortfalls, microgrants can make the difference between staying on the path toward graduation and dropping out. Microgrants are aimed at low-income students who are on track for graduation but at risk of dropping out due to small financial shortfalls.

“The Office of Student Financial Aid is grateful to be able to offer these grants to help students achieve their dreams,” said Gayle Reynolds, interim director, Wayne State’s Office of Student Financial Aid. “The grant programs complement the efforts of other groups on campus who work with our at-risk populations, including our APEX, TIP and HIGH programs. All of these programs together have been highly effective in helping to raise our graduation rates.” 

Wayne State was recently profiled in a report and implementation guide detailing how universities can use microgrants to ensure that low-income students nearing graduation have the opportunity to complete their degrees. Wayne State was included as one of 10 model institutions successfully assisting these students.

"Foiling the Drop-Out Trap, Completion Grant Practices for Retaining and Graduating Students,"   examined the success of microgrant student aid programs at 10 public urban research institutions, including programs currently operating at Wayne State University. The report was released by the APLU and USU.

The report detailed how microgrant programs are transforming campus financial aid, advising and community engagement and producing positive benefits for students and their institutions. Many of the students targeted are low income, first generation and minorities. The results include higher retention and degree completion rates for academically solid students who could be thrown off track without the microgrants. 

Half of the institutions included in the report were motivated by new Pell Grant limits, which left students facing financial shortfalls or financial aid ineligibility as they neared graduation. The new Pell Grant limits often meant that the neediest students faced the specter of dropping out, lowering the institution’s retention rate in the process.

This prompted institutions like Wayne State to not only offer support to students close to finishing their degree, but also to develop supplemental funding for Pell Grant recipients to encourage their degree completion in four years or less, before Pell Grant funding runs out.

Wayne State currently offers two grants: the Board of Governors (BOG) Completion Grant, and the WSU Promise Grant. For the 2015-16 aid year, the BOG Completion Grant offers an average of $4,000 to needy students in their fifth year of study and a grant of $5,000 to needy students in their sixth year of study. To qualify, students must have earned enough credits to graduate within six years. Students must also have “skin in the game,” which includes having borrowed loans at WSU.

The WSU Promise Grant is a front-end, four-year grant to help students with a portion of their tuition. The Promise Grant is given to first-year students with demonstrated financial need and expected family contribution as low as zero but no more than $8,000. Students must enroll full time and complete a minimum of 24 credit hours each year to maintain the award. Exceptions may be made for students who complete slightly fewer credits due to participation in remedial courses. The WSU Promise Grant offers an average of $3,000 the first two years and an average of $4,000 the third and fourth years.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 380 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 27,000 students.


Tom Reynolds
Phone: (313) 577-8093

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