$2.2 million grant awarded to improve low grad rates

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Tiffany Frandsen  | News Editor  | @tiffany_mf
KresLynn Knouse | Features Editor | @kreslynn


To support UVU’s mission to raise below-average graduation rates, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the university a $2.2 million Title III grant. The Title III grant is part of a federal program that exists to improve the quality of education among institutions of higher education.

The graduation rate for students that earn a degree within six years, excluding those that leave for military service, religious missions or other approved exceptions – is 24 percent. According to a report based on 2013 data from US News, seven percent of students entering a program at UVU graduated within a four-year period.

Currently, the national graduation rate is 36 percent for students at four-year public colleges within five years. Data collected by the ACT from 1983-2014 shows the lowest national graduation rate for four-year public colleges was 36 percent in 2013. The highest rate was in 1986 at 52.8 percent.

The “Strengthening Engagement and Completion Utah Valley University” grant will be awarded over six years and will be used for programs and initiatives designed to help students graduate. It will also strengthen academic programs and fortify academic advising and efforts to address overall completion for UVU students.

Research will be done to see where the biggest gaps in completion rates are and how they can be addressed. Richard Tafalla, associate vice president of scholarship and faculty development, believes there are gender gaps in STEM and lower retention rates with underrepresented minorities.

“Clearly, we had a need for improving the completion of student graduation rates at this university,” Tafalla said. “This [grant] is a great honor for the university. It does really show the commitment this university has to students. It’s a good recognition in how the university is progressing.”

This is the second Title III grant that the Department of Education has granted to UVU. The previous grant, received in 2005, applied to programs for first-year retention. In 2002, UVU earned a spot on Washington Monthly’s list of “dropout factories” with a graduation rate of 15 percent.

Funds from the grant will be used to bring more engaged learning opportunities to students, encouraging them to stay and finish their degree. The Office of Engaged Learning was created to promote academic engagement and collaborative learning in and out of the classroom.

“We know that engaged learning can and does play a significant role in the academic lives of students—that students who use opportunities to approach coursework and campus life in dynamic ways find themselves better prepared for graduate work or their careers,” said Frederick White, associate vice president for engaged learning. “This grant will allow us to provide more opportunities for our students to enhance their academic experience.”

The Office of Engaged Learning is also accepting project proposals from representatives across campus. All proposals must show how the project will be engaging and increase student marketability, completion likelihood or the ability to be admitted to graduate school.