September 27, 2019

Wayne State University, RaiseMe launch first-ever micro-scholarship program for student success

RaiseMe’s pilot program aims to improve first-year student retention by addressing risk factors related to financial need, academic challenges, and sense of belonging.

Wayne State University has partnered with the college readiness and student success platform RaiseMe to launch the first ever micro-scholarship-based student success initiative in the nation. The program, which aims to promote college persistence and retention for current college students, will reward students with incremental achievement-based scholarships ranging from $10 to $50 each to be applied toward tuition in the following academic year.

The new student success program borrows elements from RaiseMe’s existing college readiness programs for entering college students, instead addressing the student success from a perspective of curbing stop-out and drop-out among current enrolled undergraduate students.  According to the National Student Clearinghouse, recent reports indicate that just 55% of students at a two-year or four-year college in the United States have completed a degree within 6 years. Among certain under-represented minority populations, the six-year completion rate is as low as 29%. 

RaiseMe’s newest initiative is built off of the success of its high school and community college micro-scholarship platforms, which together have supported over 2 million students in their path to enrollment at a four-year university. All three programs are rooted in recent academic research behind using personalized “nudges” to positively impact students’ behavior throughout their academic journey.  RaiseMe’s unique approach to student success, which pairs nudges with incremental financial incentives to encourage and motivate students, has already been proven to result in improved admission, enrollment and yield outcomes for students and institutions alike.  Now, WSU’s student success program on RaiseMe aims to impact additional student success outcomes, including first-year retention and on-time graduation rates. 

On RaiseMe’s high school and community college platforms, four-year colleges incentivize and promote positive student college-going behaviors using financial awards from a prospective student’s institutional financial aid package.  WSU first partnered with RaiseMe in 2017 to offer high school students the opportunity to earn micro-scholarships— ranging from $150 to $3,000 — on their path to college beginning as early as the ninth grade. High school and community college students currently earning micro-scholarships from WSU on RaiseMe can do so for various achievements, such as maintaining a 3.5 GPA, completing an AP course, participating in extracurricular and volunteer activities, and more.

The initial pilot student success program has rolled out in two phases. The first phase, focused on addressing the phenomenon known as summer melt, is designed to boost motivation to help prospective complete the necessary tasks required to enroll during the summer between the end of high school and the beginning of college. Beginning June 2019,  approximately 500 incoming first-year students were invited to earn micro-scholarships for participating in select pre-collegiate activities proven to increase a student’s success and sense of belonging on campus. Incentivized activities included completing the FAFSA, attending orientation, enrolling in a full 15-credit course load, meeting with a Student Service Center Specialist, completing financial literacy modules, and completing a campus “photo scavenger hunt” challenge to locate classrooms, study locations, and fun hangouts in Detroit. 

The second phase of this pilot, currently live, is a fall student success program intended to promote behaviors for current students that can help them stay on-track towards graduation, which rolled out to a select group of first-semester freshmen students. The program offers incremental financial rewards for taking actions designed to address the three key areas that have been tied to successful degree completion: 

  • Academic assistance: through RaiseMe’s student success pilot, WSU students are offered incremental micro-scholarships for attending professors’ office hours, attending a study skills workshop, or enrolling in a tutoring session. 
  • Financial assistance: students earn micro-scholarships for activities like completing a financial literacy module administered by WSU, and submitting a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the upcoming academic year. 
  • Sense of belonging: students are offered micro-scholarships for researching and joining campus organizations, connecting with peer mentors, and attending campus events — events that may help enhance their sense of belonging on campus. 

Both programs are meant to supplement and enhance the robust support WSU provides to all students, offered both in-person and wrap-around.  Following the yearlong pilot, WSU and RaiseMe hope to extend the program to other first-year and continuing students, with the long-term goal of scaling the program campus-wide. 

RaiseMe will be rolling out its student success platform on more colleges campuses throughout the year.  They are prioritizing partnership with institutions that have a track record of prioritizing student access and success.

Quotes from Wayne State University and RaiseMe

“It’s exciting to be able to financially incentivize the things we know help our students be successful and move toward timely degree completion,” said WSU Provost Keith Whitfield. “This innovative partnership with RaiseMe helps us connect with students in meaningful ways, while helping to ease the cost of education.”

“From the very first time I heard about micro-scholarships for high school students, I thought that they could also be used with currently enrolled students to help keep them on track and make college more affordable.  I am thankful to the RaiseMe team for working with me to make that dream a reality. We expect these micro-scholarships to improve our students’ college experience, and are excited to see more students across the country benefit from this innovation as it is adopted by other institutions,” said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management at WSU.

“Students begin college with new responsibilities and new expectations,” said Michelle Bruner, senior director of student academic success and retention at WSU. “Connecting smart behaviors to financial reward through micro-scholarships helps us emphasize to incoming students how they can meet those expectations. When engaging in activities like meeting with instructors becomes part of a student’s routine in a supportive environment, the student will continue to go to instructors’ office hours and tutoring appointments and learning community events without reliance on extrinsic incentives.”

“Feeling connected to campus often tips the balance between a student’s decision to stay or leave,” said Kate Dyki, project manager at WSU. “Our continued partnership with RaiseMe will help make even more students feel at home at Wayne State.”  

“We’re fortunate to be working with an institution as deeply committed to innovation in student success as Wayne State to launch our new Student Success  micro-scholarships program. WSU has been lauded among its peers for its innovative programming and services aimed at providing financial and academic support to help students succeed, as well as their marked graduation rate improvement,” said Preston Silverman, CEO and Co-Founder of RaiseMe. “We’re looking forward to extending our partnership with WSU, and applying our learnings from the college readiness work we’ve undertaken together to foster further academic success, financial security, and sense of belonging among students in their first year on campus.”

For more information on RaiseMe’s student success pilot program, or to become one of RaiseMe’s student success Innovation Partners, please visit

ABOUT Wayne State University

Wayne State University is a premiere public, urban research university located in the heart of Detroit. Founded 1868, Wayne State pursues scholarship at the highest levels and serves a diverse body of more than 27,000 students through a broad array of nearly 400 academic programs. It is one of only seven public urban universities in the United States to have received the highest Carnegie Foundation rating for both research intensiveness and community engagement. Since its inception, faculty and staff have provided a high-quality educational experience for hundreds of thousands of students, who have gone on to make outstanding contributions as corporate CEOs, government leaders, judges, teachers, policy makers, university presidents, astronauts, scientists, physicians and more.


RaiseMe is on a mission to expand access to higher education by transforming the way billions of dollars in college scholarships are distributed each year. With an approach based in research encouraging and incentivizing student behavior using RaiseMe enables students to earn college scholarships throughout high school or community college, based on their individual progress and development. Whether it’s getting good grades, volunteering in the community, or leading a club, students on RaiseMe receive scholarships based on their unique skills and experience. Since launching in the fall of 2014, students in 4 out of every 5 high schools in America have earned over $4 billion in scholarships from 300+ colleges, including Florida International University, Arizona State University, University of Chicago, University of Rochester, Northeastern, Tulane and Georgia Tech. For more information, visit

An approach backed by years of efficacy data and research

To date, first-time freshmen enrollment outcomes have been strong for the nearly 35,000 high school students who have followed WSU on the RaiseMe platform:

  • Of those students who follow WSU on the RaiseMe platform, 90% who applied were admitted to the university, compared to the total applicant pool admission rate of 67%.
  • Of those admitted, 48% of students who utilized RaiseMe matriculated, nearly double the IPEDS reported yield rate of 26%.
  • Among the Fall 2019 incoming first-year WSU student class — the second-largest in WSU’s 150-year history — one-third of students were RaiseMe participants. 

In October of 2018, RaiseMe conducted initial research assessing the impact of earning micro-scholarships on student success, finding that among first-time college freshmen:

  • RaiseMe micro-scholarships are helping students engage in the college readiness process much earlier than they normally might. 85% of educators that are active on RaiseMe agree that the platform is most effective when introduced in freshman or sophomore year.
  • RaiseMe micro-scholarships are also motivating students to work harder towards college readiness. 81% of students said their confidence towards their own likelihood to succeed in college increased as a result of earning micro-scholarships on RaiseMe.
  • Students that have earned micro-scholarships from colleges on RaiseMe are being admitted to colleges at a higher rate than students not on RaiseMe. The mean admit rate of students on RaiseMe at RaiseMe partner colleges is 6.4% higher than that of non-RaiseMe students.
  • Students that have earned micro-scholarships through RaiseMe are committing to 4-year colleges at a higher rate than students not on RaiseMe, suggesting that RaiseMe is helping them find best-fit institutions. The mean deposit rate at RaiseMe partner colleges by RaiseMe students is 17% higher than that of Non-RaiseMe students.


Ted Montgomery
Phone: 248-880-6838
Cecilia Xia
Phone: 310-408-6856

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