At the ‘Aim Higher, Achieve More’ forum hosted recently by the Higher Education Works Foundation, UNC System President Margaret Spellings singled out the 49er Finish program at UNC Charlotte, which re-enrolls students who leave school with 90 hours of credit and helps them finish their degrees.
“And they got out,” Spellings says in the accompanying video, snapping her fingers. “So using financial aid very strategically … that super-strategic investment is very useful.”
UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois says the program targets students who have completed 75% of their academic program but had to leave school for various reasons.
“We started calling those students up, getting them back, giving them concierge advising, getting them in the right courses to get their degrees finished,” Dubois says.
Since 2005, the program has re-enrolled 950 students – and 93% of them completed their degrees.
“That’s the best-spent money that we can spend on those students, because they have so little to go to get it done,” Dubois says.
“And they left in good academic standing. So they went away for other reasons – life intervened, they got married, had children, they could have run out of money… We got ‘em back in, got ‘em enrolled, got ‘em back out. What more can you ask of a university?”
Dubois also praises the students’ dedication. “It’s not easy to go back to school,” he says.
But the students know that long-term, they’ll be better off with a degree. Dubois cites research that found higher incomes, better health, less incarceration and better civic engagement among college graduates.
“At whatever stage they come in, they’re going to be better off with a college degree,” he says.
“… The value proposition on higher education is so strong, even the student who dropped out of school knows it’s better to come back than not.”