In the spring of 2018, University of Iowa Student Government allocated $30,000 to the Hawkeye Completion Grant program. At Tuesday’s Senate meeting, UISG voted to allocate an additional $7,500 to the program from the organization’s contingency fund.
The funding will accompany an annual $50,000 budgeted by the Office of Student Financial Aid.
The Hawkeye Completion Grant helps students with $100 or more of overdue charges on their Ubills. Overdue charges restrict students from registering for classes or receiving degrees, so the grant program aims to boost retention and graduation rates.
According to the state Board of Regents’ Annual Graduation & Retention Report for fall 2017, the UI’s retention rate for students returning for a second year was 86 percent, down 1 percentage point from the previous year. The UI’s retention rate is the second lowest among its 10 peer universities.
“While we are not at all satisfied with our current retention rate or the four-year graduation rate relative to our peers, we are performing well above the national average of 81 percent for retention rate and 35 percent for four-year graduation rate,” President Bruce Harreld said at a regents’ meeting in February.
On Tuesday, UISG Sens. Guowei Qi and Sara Bultsma presented legislation asking the group to fund $7,500 for the Hawkeye Completion Grant this year. UISG unanimously voted in favor.
The $7,500 from UISG is designed to help the Financial Aid Office, which has offered to allocate a set amount of annual funding for the program, Qi said.
“The Office of Student Financial Aid has budgeted $50,000 to this program every year,” Qi said.
This year, 61 students received the grant with approximately $1,100 for assistance with overdue charges. Bultsma noted that grant recipients with seemingly low fees received more than $1,000 to pay them off.
“Any student who has over $100 in overdue charges is eligible for the program, but the charges can go up to $2,000,” Bultsma said.
Bultsma also said the Financial Aid Office sits down with each student to map out where the overdue charges come from to determine whether the student is in need of the grant money. These meetings also provide budgeting services to ensure students don’t continue to accrue overdue fees in the future.
She said Iowa State University has modeled a retention program after the Hawkeye Completion Grant. However, the ISU program received around $1 million from the Athletics Department.
When asked about other venues of funding from the university apart from the Financial Aid Office, Bultsma said the program has not received support from any other UI area.
The grant has positively affected UI graduation rates this year, said Tristan Schmidt, the UISG director of academic affairs. The Financial Aid Office had $72,000 in grant money that was awarded to 61 recipients.
Fifty of the 61 students, 82 percent of recipients, are enrolled in the fall semester.
“This program is a lot more than just giving students money,” Bultsma said. “It’s a lot more holistic when it comes to student retention. Paying off your tuition is just one part of graduating.”
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