58: Micro-Grants as Stop-Out Prevention at University of North Carolina at Charlotte w/ Tina McEntire

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Tina McEntire, Associate Provost at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, discusses how their Gold Rush micro-grant program keeps students from stopping out late in their program for financial reasons, and how 95% of micro-grant recipients at UNC-Charlotte have either successfully graduated or are on track to do so.

The most shocking thing for us,I think, was that when we looked at their loan debt, their averageloan debt was actually higher at the time of stop out then what our graduateaverage loan debt was. So they had accumulated more debt more quickly than ourstudents who are graduating. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education,the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at theircollege or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies ortools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into theshow. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETUpodcast network. I'm a Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education,and we're here today with Tina McIntyre, associate provost at University of North Carolinaat Charlotte. Tina, welcome to the show. Thank you. Gladto be here. Really excited to talk with you today about micro grants andtheir potential effectiveness at preventing financially motivated stopouts and dropouts. But before we diginto that, Tina, can you give the listeners a little bit better understandingof both UNC Charlotte and your rule there. So UNC Charlotte as a University ofTwenty nine thousand students. We are known as North Chihn's urban research institutions. We have undergraduate to it, graduate and doctoral programs. We have strongfocus and stem engineering, business the sciences, and we certainly serve our region anda national population. My role at UNC Charlotte as the associate provos ofenrollment management is to lead the eight enrollment related departments, but also work oncampus wide issues that affect or prohibit enrollment and progression towards degree, and soI really focus on the total student life...

...cycle and trying to make sure thatwe certainly bring in the right students through the admissions office that reports to me, but also be able to help students afford a four year education through financialaid and be able to actually ultimately graduate. Awesome, Tina, when you seestopouts and dropouts late in a student's academic career, when they're in theirlast year, we even their last semester. What is your research found is primarilycausing those stops at UN see Charlotte? So we conducted are stopout research studylast year and it really what's prompted by when I'm reviewing our aid eligibilityover four years, really looking at some seniors who were losing their aid eligibilityor some of their aid eligibility about their senior year. As we all knowthat pal you only have twelve semesters of Pale. We have a lot oftransfer students that are in tuition. We bring in over forty three hundred transfersper year. So we bring in a large number of transfer stions per year. A lot of them have used some of their aid eligibility at other institutionsand so we saw that by their senior year they were losing some aid eligibilityand so what that prompted was some stop out research looking at who our stopout students are, how many we have and why they're stopping out. Sowe did a study and looked. We have twenty fourzero undergraduates at the universityand what we found is that we were losing on average, and we lookedabout a six term average, six hundred and seventy academically eligible students stop outfor one or more terms every single semester. Six hundred seventy students. So obviouslythat concerned us and we looked at those students who had earned sixty earnedcredit hours. So they're halfway home. They're all, you know, they'rehalfway through to the finish line of a of a degree. And you knowwhat we found is they weren't students who were performing poorly academically. Sixty threepercent home had a GPA above a two, two point five. Thirty two percentof them had GPA over a.

So it wasn't academic difficulty that wasmaking them stop out. So when we surveyed this population, what we foundand what their feedback was to us, is that seventy four percent cent ofthem indicated that financial concerns was the motivator for stopping out. Fifty seven percentsaid they need to enter the workforce and work more hours or to afford college. The most shocking thing for us, I think, was that at whenwe looked at their loan debt, their average loan debt was actually higher atthe time of stop out then what our graduate average loan debt was. Sothey had accumulated more debt more quickly than ourgrest students who are graduating. Andso really we knew then that we had to do something to intervene. Andin two thousand and sixteen the Association that Publican Land Grant University's sent a requestfor proposals for completion grant programs and when I saw that I saw I'm agosh, that's the answer. Is really looking at how can we help thesestudents who are so close to the finish line cross that finish line and ina micro grant, because we did see a lot of these students who didn'twho had. Some had significant unmet need and some had little met need,but there were still unmet need there after their financial aid was awarded, andso we applied and were received a fiftyzero dollar grant to develop a completion grantprogram through a Plu. So in August two thousand and sixteen we launched ourcompletion grant program we really focus on students who are very close to graduations.So we look at students who have a hundred and five hours are greater.So they are in their senior year. They should be able to graduate.The GPA requirement to be eligible for our grants to or better. We didn'twant to put an academic requirement on it that was too stringent. You know, if you're performing at a two better than you're eligible to graduate. Welooked at students who had, you know, unmet need and, because of moneyrestrictions, they had to be North...

Jahn a residents. And so weare awarding one one five hundred dollar grants, and that's a micro grant, tostudents who meet the eligibility criteria. And we're really looking at and we'vebeen doing this for two years. So we started in August two thousand andsixteen and we've awarded five hundred forty four grants. So we're really proud ofthe pergament's called the Gold Rush Grant Program it is our completion grant program anotherunique facet of our program is that we knew part of the APLU requirement wasthat students have to have some skin in the game. So they had tohave they had to do something in order to get the grant and show thatthey were invested in their future too, and so what we looked at isfuture building activities. So we know that these students are seniors, we knowthat they are close to graduation, so we began to look at what couldthey do to help them towards graduation and then after their career, afterwards.So our future building activities, students have to complete two future building activities andthey are things like go to the career center and complete a resume workshop andhave your resume approved through the career center. Another option is to complete some financialliteracy modules on how to start paying back your loans, how to createa budget, some information about establishing credit. We knew all these types of thingswould help students in the future after they graduate, and so we werereally trying to help the student, although that they they're showing they have skinin the game. We've chosen activities we think that will really help them inthe future. You've spoken to some of the qualification requirements for those who areable to access these gold rush completion grants. Are there limitations as to what thesegrant funds can be used for? There really aren't limitations and what theycan be used for. So so what we do each semester is, afterwe award the grant, we actually survey the student who received the grant atthe end of the semester to content,...

...to get their feedback, one onthe future building activities, but to is what did they do with the grant? How did the grant help them? And we have seen students who saidI was finally I was able to buy my books this semester with this money. I wasn't able to buy books last semester. We had feedback from anotherstudent who said this is the first semester I've worked less than thirty hours.This grant help me pay for my utilities. And so it is a grant thatreally some students will use towards their tuition, other students will use tobuy their books and then other students will use it to help feed their families. So it is a grant without restricts and Z own how students use it. You mentioned you've been able to give out over five hundred of these goldrush microgrant completion grants so far. What is the response from student spend thusfar and how successful have these microgrants been in getting at risk students to continueon tractward graduation? So what we have done is, as you know,there's always more need than funds, and so what we've been able to dois we have a control group of students who met the eligibility requirements for thegold rush grant, but we didn't have enough money, and so they didn'treceive the grant. So we have two groups, the group, the treatmentgroup, of students who receive the grant and the group of students who didnot receive the grant, and we've tracked both students and what we found isthat the students who receive the grant end up taking more hours each semester andthey are progressing faster towards graduation. And so we know that our students areable to take more hours and that they are graduating at a faster rate,and so we're very happy about that. I think having the control group thatwe also follow and use has been highly successful for us to be able toreally track and know what we're looking at. The overall graduation rate is currently twentyfour points higher for the gold rush grant recipients over our control group ofeligible students not selected for the grant. And so, and course, youknow, we it's only we've only awarded...

...five and for you four grants,so we're early into this grant program but so far those results, you know, are standing. So we're very happy about that. The other things thatwe the feedback that we are receiving, I think, has been the mostsurprising for us is that when we survey these students, when we're surprised athow many actually give us feed back, which is great. But two ishow many of them have actually thanked us for the future building activities. We'vehad so much feedback from our students that says I should have gone to theCreersen or earlier. I had been before, so glad that you made me go. Another one said I wish I'd taken these financial literacy modules about howto establish a budget from the very beginning of since I was a freshman.So finding out how helpful the and we've actually tweaked them. We had somelike career testing in the beginning that we use as a future building activity,and that feedback came back not as helpful, and so we've added in some othercareer options and so we've tweaked our program based on students feedback. Theother feedback that we've received is a a lot of feedb about thank you forthis honors, thank you for believing in me. So we were, youknow, a little shocked that students, you know, not only saw thisas money they needed, but also that somebody believed in them, that theywere surprised and honored that someone believed that they could cross the finish line,and so it sends to be an extra boost and motivation, motivator for themto continue their studies and that we believe in them and we know they cancross the finish line, so that it seems like that kind of grant awardcame at the right time in their career to motivate them to finish, andso that's been a joy for us to read. Is that kind of feedback, just you know, someone believed in me. Thank you for believing inme. missionally, the results of this program make could feel like a nobrainer so far. What about economically? This feels like a very low costopportunity. You mentioned these grants are are...

...roughly fifte hundred and these students youmentioned are are now completing at twenty four percent higher than your holdout group.Talk about the economic benefits of four fifteen hundred dollars getting that tuition revenue forthe rest of their program so I think the economic benefit for us, obviously, is to have more students graduate. And but I can tell you thatthe difficulty when we first began our grant program it's identifying the money because,Apou, we are awarded a Fiftyzero grant to create a program but none ofthat money could be used towards actually giving the grants, and so we hadto identify financial aid money that was need based, funds that we could usetowards this program and so we had a couple of funds and then I createdsomething called the Evergreen Fund, where you and CE CHARLOTTE, the forty hours, our colors are green, and really tried to reach out to alumni anddonors and they evergreen fun is a fund that's unrestricted scholarship money to help studentseither graduate or enter the university, and we use some of those funds towardsour Gold Rush Grant Program so finding the money probably was the most difficult partbecause, you know, we don't there's not a lot of unrestricted funds.We needed to make sure that we weren't taking need money, that was needbased away from another group, that we were using this this money in avery strategic way and good steward of donor funds and a good stored of,you know, need base dollars. And so finding the money was something thatI'm sure all university struggle with. We have been fortunate and that because ourgoal rush grant program has been a success. I have worked with our advancement officeto really talk to them about that, because I think it's a great donorstory. What donor wouldn't want to give, you know, a fifteenhundred dollar grant to help us student across the finish line who's already proven themselvesby already earning a lot of credit that...

Gott into their senior year? Soit's a great donor story and so I've worked with our advancement office and recently, justice past spring, the UNC Charlotte Foundation, our foundation has route,has approved a one million dollar match program and so bill match dollar for dollarfor any donor who wants to give money to the Gold Rush Grant Program andso that will really set us up for future funding so that one will beable to award more grants but also continue this grant program year after year.Tina, that's incredible news and that is a great story indeed. Finally,any next steps? Advice for listeners considering a similar microgrant strategy for preventing stopoutsat their institution? I think my number one advice is to have a controlgroup because without our control group, one is that you can't talk about thefull need because you know what we've looked at. We've not just, youknow, selected our students, we've looked at what is you know, ifwe had the money, what would it? How many students could we meet theirneed? And so being able to say that to your advancement, yourdonors, is here's what the full need looks like. Help US get thereto meet more student need. I think too is being able to track yourresults and so how many students are actually looking at the number of credit hoursthey're they're taking? Has that increased with a with a completion grant, lookingat graduation? Having a control group to compare that to a students who meetthat same criteria is important. So that's that's kind of the research side isyou've got to have the data to do the comparison. I think also isis publicized that widely. I think that there are some completion grant programs wherethe fighting to wait office really manages it. It's not talked about broadly on campusand we've made it a point to talk about it broadly, not onlyon our campus but in the UNC system. You know, we're part of aseventeen or sixteen university system and and we've talked to President Spellings about thisprogram and she's mentioned it in some of...

...her speeches. So it's it's importantto communicate broadly what we're doing to help students cross the finish line, andI think this is we have such a good story to tell because it's notlike we're bringing in students from the beginning and we're not sure, they haven'tproven whether or not they can be successful. We're really taken in a group ofstudents who've invested their money and their lives and themselves into their education.They've been successful and we're just helping them get to that last little bit.Tina, thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place forlisteners to connect with you? They have any follow up questions, what stresscan reach me at my email address. That Tina Tia Dot McIntyre, MacIntyre'sMC intire at UNCC DOT Edu. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining ustoday, Tina. Thank you so much. Attracting today's new post traditionallearners means adopting new enrollment strategies, helix educations, data driven, enterprise wideapproach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new educationlandscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbookwith fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollmentgrowth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've beenlistening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss anepisode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player.Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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