University of New Mexico Graduation Project
Only about half of students who start college eventually earn a bachelor’s degree, and another 15 percent or so earn an associate’s degree. So over a third of those who start college leave before they complete their degree. Some of these college dropouts get close to graduation but still do not graduate. They leave in good academic standing. But other problems—at home, financial, health and other personal problems (in my case the military draft during the Vietnam War)—get in their way.
The University of New Mexico’s Graduation Project seeks out these near-graduate dropouts and invites them to return to complete their college work and receive their justly earned college degrees. Started in 1996 the Graduation Project has identified 3830 dropouts who left the University in good standing and were close to graduation. The Graduation Project has tracked down and re-enrolled 1934 of these dropouts (50.4%) and graduated 1342 of them (69.4% of those who have re-enrolled), with 197 more still enrolled as of last spring.
The average GPA at graduation of the dropouts/returnees was 3.03. The average GPA of the entire stopout cohort was 2.97. Of the 1342 who returned and graduated from the University of New Mexico, 30 have earned a graduate degree at UNM and 47 others were enrolled in graduate school.
A very few other colleges do this—we have heard of only two. The University of Wisconsin/Oshkosh and one of the CUNY colleges operates such a program. The University of Missouri at Columbia is moving towards a graduation project of its own.
The question that occurs to me is why every college does not have a Graduation Project like that of the University of New Mexico. Don’t colleges and universities care enough about their student stop-outs to seek them out, help them re-enroll, to address their problems and help them graduate? This is a win-win situation--if only colleges would reach out to their nearly-graduated dropouts.