Apr 082007

To combat a stagnant graduation rate and boost enrollment, CSU-Pueblo is offering $1,500 cash to students who finish their degree in four years starting this fall.

“I am excited about being able to hand a student both a diploma and a check,” said Joseph Garcia, CSU-Pueblo president. “I think that is a great graduation present.”

CSU-Pueblo has an enrollment of 4,000 and a four-year graduation rate of about 18 percent.

The purpose of the Graduate Incentive Plan is to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation by offering the reward.

The plan aims to increase these factors by attracting attention to CSU-Pueblo by bringing in students who might otherwise consider the school their second or third choice, decreasing the number of students who transfer from CSU-Pueblo to other four-year colleges or universities, and providing a benefit for students who complete their degree in a timely manner.

So what’s the possibility of such an incentive to be offered for CSU-Fort Collins students?

“The plan probably would not work too well in Fort Collins because they have a high four-year graduation rate,” Garcia said. “Fort Collins probably would not want to do this.”

Brad Bohlander, CSU-Fort Collins spokesman, said the plan would not be a good idea here.

“For a major research university like CSU-Fort Collins, it is not a good fit. It is a worthwhile proposal for CSU-Pueblo because of their unique situation with a lot of students transferring and not finishing,” Bohlander said. “Since it raises their student body, it is worth it for them. For us, it would just be a loss of money.”

Garcia said many students treat CSU-Pueblo like a community college by attending and then later transferring to other schools. He said because of that, CSU-Pueblo has a low four-year graduation rate.

“We have been trying to think of a way to raise that rate for a long time,” Garcia said. “We want to raise it so that we can enhance and build our academic reputation.”

For a student to be eligible to receive the incentive, they must sign an agreement and declare a major upon entering CSU-Pueblo, complete a minimum of 120 hours of coursework, and fulfill all graduation requirements within the four years.

The idea was suggested by Joe Blake, a member of the CSU board of governors, at a board retreat in the fall. The board discussed strategies to speed up the higher education process when Blake mentioned his idea. The idea was voted on and approved.

The board decided that $1,500 was a good amount because that is the cost of a student’s last semester tuition.

In the past couple of years, more has been done to build a bridge between the Fort Collins and Pueblo campuses, Bohlander said.

“We work to try to compliment each other on the different campuses,” Bohlander said. “If a student is interested in a program that we know is particularly good at CSU-Pueblo, then we suggest a switch, and vice versa.”

Garcia is confident the plan will work.

“I think it will be a success. We have already signed up a few students for it and they are excited about it,” Garcia said. “No matter what, a four-year degree is always a success.”

Staff writer Taryn Clark can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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