Bridge Magazine: Wayne State improves its graduation rate, wins Project Degree Completion Award

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) named Wayne State University the winner of its 2018 Project Degree Completion Award during its annual meeting in New Orleans. The annual Project Degree Completion Award identifies and honors institutions using innovative strategies or programs to increase retention and graduation outcomes and decrease achievement gaps

Wayne State has taken its lumps over the years. Less than a decade ago, about one in four students earned a degree within six years. Fewer than one in 10 black students who enrolled at the Detroit campus left with a four-year degree within that time. For black men, the rate was one in 14. Since then, the chances of Wayne State University students leaving the Detroit campus with a degree has almost doubled to 45 percent. And the African-American graduation rate has tripled to 26 percent. And while still trailing Michigan’s other public universities in graduation rate, Wayne State is garnering national attention for its turnaround, raising hopes that the lessons learned on the urban campus can be applied to improve grad rates of minorities, low-income and first-generation college students across the state. “If students suffer, the nation suffers,” said Monica Brockmeyer, WSU’s  senior associate provost for student success. “If students thrive, the nation will too. That’s not a value, that’s a law of gravity. And universities are waking up to this.” Wayne State hired 45 more academic counselors, doubling its staff. Those counselors today have access to much more information about students, Brockmeyer said. “We follow a coordinated care model you’d see in health care.” Brockmeyer said. “We have general communications to support all students and more intense communication with students who need it. We look at changes in grade point average, looking for students with rising risks” of dropping out. A student whose scores drop at midterms is likely to be contacted by a counselor with offers of academic support.

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