School offers 4-year graduates $300 incentive

The Oswego State president’s office announced plans on Wednesday for an expansion to the Oswego Guarantee program that will offer students who graduate in four years or less a $300 “return on investment.”

Starting with December 2013 graduates, all students who graduate within four years of the fall semester they enrolled, and meet all other requirements of the Oswego Guarantee, will receive $300 from the school upon graduation.

This academic year, 660 students are expected to qualify for the program, which would cost the school an estimated $200,000, according to the Oswego State Public Affairs Office.

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said the school decided to expand the Oswego Guarantee program to help make students and their families more aware of the value of graduating within four years.

“We want to get their attention, we want to get their parents’ attention or their family’s attention so they can begin to plan right away,” Stanley said. “The benefits to students go well beyond the $300. If you are graduating on time you are not paying an additional semester or year of tuition, you are able to enter the workforce and earn money, so that differential nets to an even greater amount for the students. It allows students a very clear path to graduation.”

 

The Oswego Guarantee

The Oswego Guarantee, which was established in 1997 by Stanley, previously contained three promises to students:

▪The necessary classes to complete a baccalaureate degree in four consecutive years will be available or the college will enroll students in the necessary classes to graduate tuition free.

▪There will be a continued availability of small classes. Approximately 86 percent of all classes at Oswego State enroll fewer than 40 students.

▪There will be no increase in the cost of a student’s room and board for four consecutive academic years.

Stanley said the guarantee was a way for the school, which has its tuition decided at the state-level, to provide students a steady price for something the university can control –the room and board– while also ensuring that if students are unable to graduate due to a problem on the school’s end, they will have a way to avoid additional charges.

The school rarely has to give students the tuition-free courses, Stanley said, so the new program provides a way for the school to further stress the importance of graduating in four years.

“It really turns the attention toward the importance of focusing as soon as a student enrolls in the college as a first-year student to focus on a four-year degree plan and work closely with their advisers and seek out their professors to make sure that the courses that they select each semester lead towards the degree that they’re trying to earn,” Kristi Eck, the president’s interim chief of staff, said.

Mark Humbert, the director of financial aid for Oswego State, said that the money, while able to help students with job-search expenses, is more of a way for the school to stress to students the value of graduating in four years.

“I think it’s an incentive, really,” Humbert said. “It can help with expenses jumping into your career, but it’s more of a reminder of how important it is get your education done in those four years.”

 

Receiving the ROI 

To qualify for the return on investment, students will have to adhere to the guidelines set by the Oswego Guarantee, which require a student to have enrolled in a fall term as a full-time freshman, declared a major no later than their third semester, met with an adviser at least once a semester and fulfilled all major and college requirements while graduating no later than May of the student’s fourth consecutive academic year.

“We want to verify that they are getting the appropriate advice and that we have provided the appropriate advice through our channels, and they’ve had contact with an adviser in order to plan,” Stanley said.

Stanley added that Degree Works and Starfish, a student retention system the school began experimenting with in August, will help the school monitor how much advisement students are getting and the degree progress of students.

However, students graduating in December 2013 or May 2014 are excluded from the requirement of meeting with an adviser once a semester, according to the president’s office.

Students who qualify and graduate in December and May this year will receive the money in a manner similar to financial aid refund, where the money will be dispersed after graduation and after the student’s accounts have been settled.  If a student has a balance of $200, the ROI will first be applied to the balance, and the student will receive $100.

Briana LaRocca, a double-major in English and Adolescent Education, will graduate in December and be one of the first students to receive $300 from the ROI program.

“It’s great,” LaRocca said. “It should have been implemented sooner really. I wish they had always been doing it. There are a lot of students who don’t graduate in that four-year range, so there should be more recognition for students who do manage to graduate in four years or graduate early.”

LaRocca enrolled in the fall of 2010 with 21 credits, which she said, along with taking multiple winter courses, allowed her to graduate a semester early. She said she plans use the money to pay down some of her student loans.

 

Focus on graduation rates

The announcement of the program comes on the heels of several months of discussion of higher education costs and values, which often cited graduation rates as the barometer of a university’s effectiveness. President Barack Obama introduced a College Scorecard system that provided information on school’s graduation rates and proposed this summer a plan that would use graduation rates as a factor in how much federal aid is given to a university.

Oswego State had a four-year graduation rate of 38 percent for students who enrolled in fall of 2006, according to Department of Education data. This number is slightly ahead of the 37.8 percent state public school figure and the 31.3 percent U.S. average.

“I don’t think we would ever be in danger of losing federal aid where we are, but we want to be proud of our graduation rates and we want to announce to the world that we are providing the stepping stone for students to meet those requirements,” Stanley said.

The idea behind the program, which will draw its funds from a campus account, is not just to incentivize students to focus on graduating early, but to remind them of the value as well.

“It’s reminding students of the actions that they need to take as soon as they enroll here to create a plan and move forward,” Eck said. “That plan is successful when they work together with the college and they meet regularly with their advisers and they take advantage of the resources that are provided to them here.”

Eck said that more information will be made available to students about the program in the coming months on the Oswego Guarantee page of the Oswego.edu website.