This is a high-impact strategy because it takes scarce financial resources and targets them using the power of data and analytics. It has been able to be scaled quickly, and is now impacting 2,000 students per year.
Provide micro grants to students at the fee drop each semester to help cover modest financial shortfalls impacting the students’ ability to pay tuition and fees to prevent students from stopping/dropping out. This past fall, more than 18,000 of Georgia State’s 25,000+ bachelor-seeking students (72%) had some level of unmet need (we are using Fall 16 data to set a baseline for our associate-seeking students), meaning that even after grants, loans, scholarships, family contributions and the income generated from the student working 20 hours a week, the students lack sufficient funds to attend college. Each semester, hundreds of fully qualified students are dropped from their classes for lack of payment. For as little as $300, Panther Retention Grants provide the emergency funding to allow students who want to get their degrees the opportunity to stay enrolled. Last year, nearly 2,000 Georgia State students were brought back to the classroom—and kept on the path to attaining a college degree—through the program. 61% of the seniors who received PRG support last academic year graduated within two semesters of receiving the grant and 82% either had graduated or were still enrolled one year after receiving the grant. With more than 5,000 grants awarded over the past four years, he program has prevented literally thousands of students from dropping out of Georgia State.
Staff examine the drop lists for students with genuine unmet need, who are on track for graduation using our academic analytics, and who have modest balances for tuition and fees. Students are offered micro grants on the condition that they agree to certain activities, including meeting with a financial counselor to map out plans to finance the rest of their education. Last academic year, 2,000 grants were offered. This included the first grants awarded to Perimeter College students during the Spring 2016 and Summer 2016 semesters.
A California State University study found that, among students who stop out for a semester, only 30% ever return and graduate from the institution. The PRG program is designed to prevent stop out and the negative impact on completion rates that follow.
Interim Measures of Progress
Of freshmen who were offered Panther Retention grants in fall 2013, 93% enrolled the following spring, a rate higher than that of the student body as a whole. 83% of freshman PRG recipients returned to class in fall 2014. The retention rate for freshmen who were offered the grants in fall 2014 was 88%.
We are also tracking the rate of “returnees” to the program, which we have been able to keep under 25%
Since the first awards of the grants to Perimeter students did not occur until Spring 16, we do not have one-year data yet. We will report of these data in next year’s report.
Measures of Success
The ultimate measure of success is college completion. The largest group of recipients last year were seniors, who often are running out of Hope funding or exhausting other aid. 68% of seniors who receive the grant have graduated.
· A data-driven approach to award dispersion ensures that support is given to students who are both in need and who are likely to succeed when their need is met. This represents a shift in perspective, away from distributing funds as a response to financial need alone, and toward an approach that is first and foremost motivated by an interest in eliminating non-academic barriers to student success.
Many students lack the financial literacy necessary to ensure that an otherwise sustainable amount of financial support is managed effectively through to the end of their degrees. The Panther Retention Grants are an excellent way to respond to the financial needs of student who are on track to degree, but who encounter financial shortfalls as they near graduation. In an effort to be more proactive, GSU has added a set of financial indicators to its predictive analytics and has also committed to establishing a dedicated financial counseling center by the end of Spring 2016. Through proactive interventions like these, GSU expects to see fewer of its students run into financial problems later in their degree, while at the same time providing tis students with the tools necessary for financial security in career upon graduation