Purdue's graduation rate for Pell grant students leads state public universities

February 28, 2012

Pell Grant recipient Alex Zawodni studies in the Wiley Hall drawing room. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Students receiving Pell grants at Purdue University West Lafayette have the highest graduation rate among Indiana's public universities, statistics compiled by Purdue and the other universities show.

Sixty-four percent of Purdue students who had Pell grants and started in fall 2004 received their degrees by 2010. Over the same period, the average graduation rate for students with Pell grants among all Indiana public universities was 41 percent. The figures are six-year graduation rates of first-time, full-time, degree-seeking students with Pell grants. The six-year graduation rate for all full-time students at Purdue is 68 percent, while the average graduation rate for full-time students at Indiana's public universities is 52 percent.

A federal Pell grant is a monetary award based on financial need, costs to attend school and status as a full-time or part-time student. The maximum Pell grant for 2011-12 is $5,550.

Purdue assists Pell grant-eligible students with several different programs, said Jared Tippets, director of Student Access, Transition and Success (SATS).

"There are success strategies in place broadly across campus that help students succeed," Tippets said. "There are the cultural centers; Academic Boot Camp; minority programs in the colleges of Engineering, Technology and Science; and Science Bound. There also are many tutoring programs in colleges. Residential Life offers a lot of counseling and mentoring. The Academic Success Center offers courses to help students succeed."

Two other programs, Purdue Promise and HORIZONS, also help students who receive Pell grants.

In its third year, Purdue Promise provides financial and personal support for low-income, first-generation college students from Indiana. Administered by SATS, each year of the program is tailored to the participants' needs. For example, the first year focuses on transitioning into college, and the second year focuses on campus involvement through employment and student activities. The third and fourth years are focused on planning for postcollege, networking and job search.

"National research shows that students from low-income families, students who are first-generation college students and students who come from underrepresented backgrounds persist and graduate at about 10 to 15 percent lower rates than their peers who come from more wealthy families, have parents who are college graduates and come from majority populations," Tippets said.

"To have success with at-risk students you have to have scholarships and then what I call high-touch support. Scholarship and grant programs open doors for these students to have the same opportunities as other students. Programs such as Purdue Promise and HORIZONS are designed to support them once they get here. They give students financial aid and academic and social support."

Alex Zawodni, a sophomore from Fort Wayne, Ind., studying biology and pre-physical therapy, is a student who receives a Pell grant and credits Purdue Promise for helping her in school.

"When I was a freshman, we took a course that introduced us to Purdue," said Zawodni, who also is a Twenty-first Century scholar. "They told us about all the resources that we could use. I made friends in that class that I still have. It's an awesome support system. If I have a problem and can't get in touch with a friend or my Mom, I can go to Purdue Promise and they'll help me. We have tutors all the time, and that's really helped me.

"It's opened to the door for me to get student leadership positions across campus, including in the Learning Community at Wiley Hall. This year, we've reviewed resources and also reviewed resumes. I'm pretty sure that with my resume, I could get just about any job that I want."

She said receiving a Pell grant has great meaning.

"It's been a motivator to do well in school," she said. "It's helped me go to a great university and get a quality education."

HORIZONS is housed in the Office of the Dean of Students and supported by the U.S. Department of Education. Students qualify for the program as long as they meet one of three criteria: they are a first-generation college student, they are income-eligible, and/or they are a student with a disability.

"We do a lot of work with the first-semester transition to college," said Erin DeRosa, counseling coordinator of HORIZONS at Purdue. "HORIZONS services include mentoring, tutoring and financial, academic and personal counseling. We have peer mentors and faculty mentors, career counseling, and we work closely with the academic counselors. Tutoring is a huge component. We offer tutoring for any 100- or 200-level STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or foreign language class."

While the first and second years are one area of emphasis, the program offers assistance to students throughout their Purdue academic career.

"We encourage students who have been through the program to come back as peer mentors when they're upperclassmen," DeRosa said. "We have found the extra level of social support they provide is very helpful. It also helps us stay connected to them because they're coming into the office."

Writer:  Greg McClure, 765-496-9711, gmcclure@purdue.edu

Sources:  Jared Tippets, 765-494-2451, jtippets@purdue.edu

                   Erin DeRosa, 765-494-8760, elion@purdue.edu

                   Alex Zawodni, azawodni@purdue.edu

                   Jacquelyn L. Frost, director of the Office of Institutional Research, 765-494-7126, frostj@purdue.edu