NDSU awarded $200,000 to help at-risk students

FARGO--North Dakota State University was recently awarded $200,000 to help upperclassmen at risk of not completing their studies overcome obstacles and enable them to graduate.

File photo. (The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead)

FARGO-North Dakota State University was recently awarded $200,000 to help upperclassmen at risk of not completing their studies overcome obstacles and enable them to graduate.

The grant is targeted toward students in three high-demand majors-human development or family science, business administration or accounting, and computer science or management information systems.

NDSU expects 950 students will benefit from the grant, which begins in January and runs through July 1, 2019. To be eligible, students must have completed more than three-quarters of their degree requirements.

By contrast, most initiatives aimed at improving retention focus on younger students, typically those in their first or second year of studies.

"We're interested in getting those students over the finish line toward graduation," said Amy Kerwin, vice president for community investments for Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp., which awarded the grant.


Students commonly fail to complete their degrees because they reach the limit on financial aid, need extra academic support or encounter difficult life challenges, according to Great Lakes.

Assistance can take the form of "gap grants" to help students cover educational expenses, including tuition fees and textbooks, and emergency grants to help students overcome unforeseen financial emergencies, including medical bills or car repairs.

"We're not talking about a lot of grants or a lot of money, but it's enough to make a difference," said Charlene Wolf-Hall, NDSU's vice provost for academic affairs. The student grants will be awarded through an application process.

Other help will involve extra instruction through peer coaching and small-group tutoring sessions, as well as enhanced training for academic advisers. Advisers will actively seek the students out to help them solve problems and stay on track, Wolf-Hall said.

"To check in with them, get a feeling of how they're doing," she said.

NDSU, one of 14 campuses in five states to win the completion grants, submitted an application that stood out for its detailed analysis, Kerwin said.

"They came up with some very targeted solutions that get an the problems they identified," she said.

NDSU will collect information about students served by the grant, and will compile a report to evaluate what worked and what didn't. Along with results from the other grantees, the initiatives can serve as models for other campuses, Kerwin said.


"In a couple of years we'll know if it works," Wolf-Hall said.

Patrick Springer first joined The Forum in 1985. He covers a wide range of subjects including health care, energy and population trends. Email address:
Phone: 701-367-5294
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