Photo by Ruth Heide
During a press conference on Tuesday, Adams State College Provost Michael Mumper discusses a Colorado Department of Higher Education grant that will enable the college to set up an Office of Degree Completion.
Higher ed grant will help
By RUTH HEIDE
ALAMOSA — Adams State College is offering a “come back” for college dropouts.
Through a $25,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Higher Education, ASC is creating the Office of Degree Completion to encourage those who never quite finished that college degree to take the final steps toward a diploma.
Adams State Provost Dr. Michael Mumper explained during a Tuesday press conference that the funding would enable the college to put staff in place to focus on identifying the reasons students did not complete their degrees and working with them to re-enroll.
The state has identified more than 20,000 students who attended Colorado institutions of higher education within the last five years, earned grade point averages of 2.0 or better and completed 75 percent of their required credits towards a degree but never finished. To address that situation, the Department of Higher Education provided three $25,000 grants to colleges and universities throughout Colorado including ASC, Metro State in Denver and the University of Colorado-Boulder. A fourth $25,000 grant was awarded to the University of Northern Colorado to target Hispanic enrollment.
Mumper said the list of 20,000 non-completing college students only included 130 who gave Adams State as the last college they attended “so students coming through here do pretty well and graduate.”
However, ASC plans to broaden its outreach to students who did not finish their degrees at other colleges as well. “It’s going to be our job to contact as many of them as we can,” Mumper said.
Mumper explained that Adams State will use its grant funding for two purposes: 1) degree completion program outreach, assisting students with re-enrolling in college and helping them develop individualized degree plans to complete their degrees either on site or through online course work; and 2) conduct a statewide survey of 400 non-completing students to find out why they did not finish their degrees.
Mumper said many of consultations with former college students will have to occur in the evenings when those folks are available, so the grant funding will allow the college to hire staff to work during that time frame.
Mumper said many previous studies focused on student retention between the first and second years of college but did not address those students who came very close to earning a degree but did not complete it. ASC’s survey of non-completing students will find out what happened to halt their education “and what we can do to get them back into school,” Mumper said.
Some students may have accumulated credits from more than one school, and ASC hopes to put those educational puzzle pieces back together for those students to see what pieces they might be missing to complete the final graduation picture. Mumper said many may only need a few courses, and some might actually have enough credits already for an associate degree.
ASC’s affordable tuition and online course offerings will be crucial in this effort according to Mumper. “We are a national leader in offering degrees online,” he said. Adams State offers more than 250 courses online or via correspondence.
Mumper added the obstacles to non-completion could be varied. He said he expected some of the reasons for non-completion at ASC to include the fact that students moved away. Other barriers might be financial, childcare issues or employment.
“We expect a lot of it to have to do with changes that occur in people’s personal life and their circumstances,” he said.
Colorado Department of Higher Education Staff Julie Carnahan added that sometimes students just begin to “flounder,” lose interest or doubt the value of the degree they are pursuing. “They weren’t sure the degree really meant anything,” she said. The students might have lacked a mentor, perhaps a faculty member, who could encourage them to the finish line, she said.
Mumper said he hoped the outreach program would be so successful the college could continue operating its Office of Degree Completion after the grant is concluded. “I hope this is something we are able to sustain over the longer term. We will see how it goes. We are at the beginning.”
Mumper invited those interested in finishing their degrees to contact the Adams State Admissions Office at 587-7306; toll free at 866-344-1687; or through email, firstname.lastname@example.org.