National Education Leader takes note of Louisiana’s Efforts to Target Low-Income Students and Improve Graduation Rates


National Education Leader takes note of Louisiana’s Efforts to Target Low-Income Students and Improve Graduation Rates

Note to Media: This release contains specific campus information to localize stories.

Baton Rouge, La – University of Louisiana System initiatives to increase the college-going and completion rates of underrepresented students have caught the attention of U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. UL System President Sally Clausen highlighted Louisiana campus efforts during a Washington, D.C. meeting of higher education leaders with Spellings on Wednesday. The meeting coincided with the national launch of a multi-state initiative to increase the number of college graduates, particularly targeting low-income and minority students being led by the National Association of System Heads and The Education Trust.

“From the beginning, University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen has been a key leader in shaping the national Access to Success initiative. Not only did she bring together higher education leaders in Louisiana, but she played a leading role in energizing leaders nationally, as well,” said Kati Haycock, President of The Education Trust.

Louisiana was the first state to commit to the national initiative during a statewide higher education forum in February. To date, 19 public higher education systems, including the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, Southern University System, and UL System, have signed up. In total, the participating systems educate 2 million students.

“This has the potential to be one of the most significant initiatives impacting the future of higher education in America,” said Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter. “Recognizing the need to make attaining a college education, not only more accessible to minority and low-income students, but to develop strategic efforts in key areas that ensure their success and ability to graduate places this as a revolutionary move.”

“There is much interest in the student success strategies that are underway in Louisiana. We in higher education can either set our course on accountability and strong student outcomes or have that course set for us. I am proud of the work our campuses have initiated to directly improve student access to success,” Clausen said.

Among the campus programs highlighted during the national launch were progression grants at Southeastern Louisiana University to encourage students to graduate in four years; financial rewards for outstanding faculty advising at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; team advising at Nicholls State University; dual enrollment programs at Northwestern State University; redesigned barrier courses such as mathematics at the University of Louisiana at Monroe; supplemental instruction at Grambling State University; and student achievement centers that provide tutoring, degree planning, career development and other academic support at Louisiana Tech University and McNeese State University.

“Our university presidents have not only verbally committed to this initiative, they have also targeted resources for new and innovative programming to ensure we succeed,” said Clausen.

The success of this effort will significantly improve our state and its citizens. According to the 2006 Measuring Up Report for Louisiana, if all minority individuals in the state had the same educational attainment and earnings as whites, total personal incomes would be $4.6 billion higher than today.

In concert with the NASH Access to Success Initiative, the UL System has established aggressive goals that include exceeding the national graduation rate by 2012, targeting underserved students, graduating students at a faster rate, and reducing student debt.


Exceeding the National Graduation Rate

In 2004, the eight presidents of the UL System signed an agreement to exceed the national graduation rate average by 2012. Currently, the system’s graduation rate is 38 percent. Strategies to reach the national graduation rate average include raising admissions criteria, ensuring high school students are academically prepared, improving academic advising, and enhancing articulation agreements with community colleges.


“Cultivating closer relationships between the Louisiana Community and Technical College System with campuses in the UL System is ideal as we seek to strengthen transfer opportunities, provide better financial incentives, and collaborate in the area of workforce development for our students,” said LCTCS President Joe May. “Additionally, a collaboration of these two systems, which represent such a wide geographic distribution of colleges across the state, presents a prime opportunity to produce more graduates.”


Targeting Underserved Students

One-quarter of the UL System’s almost 80,000 students are African-American in a state that has a 33 percent African-American population. Furthermore, 39 percent of UL System students are financially needy (Pell Grant recipients) in a state with one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Strategies to increase enrollment and graduation rates of underserved students include offering need-based aid, campus jobs, and flexibility of class offerings that include the infusion of technology to support working students.


Graduating Students at a Faster Rate

Not only is the UL System committed to graduating more students, it is also committed to decreasing the average time to graduation. The national average for graduation is six years. UL System presidents are committed to graduate students, on average, in five years or less. In order to accomplish this goal, campuses are working hard to improve academic advising, ensure the availability of high-demand courses, and offer financial incentives for students successfully completing required courses on time.


Reducing Student Debt

Students in the UL System graduate with an average total debt of $18,000 in a state where the average annual income of the lowest 40 percent of wage earners is $16,834. Strategies for reducing student debt include offering scholarships and need-based aid as well as providing incentives to graduate on time. “Simply shaving off two years of academic study could save a student approximately $19,000 in tuition, room, and board,” said Clausen.


“Dr. Clausen has been an instrumental force behind the development of the Access to Success initiative on both a national and local level. I am confident that under her leadership, the University of Louisiana System will serve as a model to others as the implementation of the initiative progresses,” said NASH President and Mississippi’s Commissioner of Higher Education Thomas Meredith.


Campus Access to Success Highlighted Programs



Adams Bridge to College (ABC) Program

Offering a summer bridge program for students who are deficient in one or two of the high school core-curriculum courses to gain admission to GSU. The ABC Program consists of two intensive four-week sessions that occur during summer school. Students who successfully pass the courses taken with a grade of “C” or higher will be offered admission to the University.


Supplemental Instruction

Expanding supplemental instruction and faculty mentoring for students struggling academically (achieving below C-level). Faculty members will provide early intervention assistance, especially for students in Freshman English and College Algebra.



Bulldog Achievement Resource Center (BARC)

Providing centralized student support through supplemental advising, instruction, tutoring, writing assistance, and co-curricular activities in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs. Programs include freshman convocation, first-year experience activities, learning communities, and a faculty concern referral program.


Engineering Summer Bridge Program

Offering a six-week summer bridge program for first-time engineering and science freshmen. The purpose of the program is to prepare students to succeed in their first engineering mathematics course. During summer school, participants enroll in College Algebra (Math 101), and General Psychology (Psychology 102) as a head-start on engineering math and other courses.



Dual Enrollment

Offering dual enrollment courses through a collaborative agreement between McNeese, the Calcasieu Parish School Board, and Sowela Community College. In addition to currently approved dual enrollment courses, other courses are planned to be offered including introduction to engineering, nursing, education, and business.


Write to Excellence Initiative

Enhancing critical thinking skills as a part of the writing across the curriculum. The key to the initiative is the selection of faculty who will be the first contact for students in the freshman foundations component of Write to Excellence. Student peers are involved in tutoring and providing leadership for success.



Team Advising

Advising with a “team” approach, each student interacts with a UNIV 101 instructor, a liaison from the department or college in which the student is majoring, and a faculty mentor from another college or department. In support of this model, faculty members participate in Master Advising workshops to develop skills important for good advising.


Scholarship Initiatives

Funding an array of scholarships that target high-ability students, low-income students, minority students, students who lost scholarships for other than academic reasons, and students transferring from community college.



Success Through Early Preparation for Undergraduate Programs (STEP-UP)

Providing university courses taught to eligible high school seniors (dual enrollment) in DeSoto, Grant, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and Vernon parishes. STEP-UP currently enrolls 234 students taking courses in English, Math, Education, Computer and Fine Arts.


First Year Success Series (FYSS)

Hosting over 65 programs designed specifically for first-year students to address some of the common issues that new students may experience during their transition to college life such as developing skills for academic and personal success. Various departments on campus present sessions over a four-week period aimed at establishing relationships with academic advisors, understanding the electronic degree audit, improving study skills, and making the library work for the student are other important sessions.



Freshmen Initiatives

Instituting a required 3-credit hour freshman academic success course that provides students with the tools needed to address the rigors of academic life. Topics include the purpose and value of higher education; the expectations and responsibilities of a college student; the development of learning strategies; choosing the appropriate major and developing degree/career goals; and personal management during the college years. Students meet face-to-face with an instructor as well as complete assignments online.


Progression Scholarship Program

Offering a scholarship to promote retention and timely progression toward a four-year degree. Students who make steady progress toward completing their degrees on time will receive a scholarship equal to a percentage of their tuition and fees – as much as 50 percent for seniors. Students who make progress toward their degrees could earn almost $3,000 in scholarships by graduation which may allow students to work less and take the courses they need to graduate on time. Timely degree completion could also save students thousands of dollars in loan debt.



Faculty Advising Awards

Offering an awards program for 55 faculty advisors annually in an effort to improve the quality of advising. To qualify for consideration, a faculty advisor must advise at least 20 undergraduate students and attend at least two advisor training activities. The selection committee considers student feedback, letters of recommendation, and academic performance of advisees. Initial results have been encouraging with increased advising participation in advising by faculty and significantly improved student satisfaction of this activity.


Mentoring Program

Instituting a mentoring program in which faculty and staff volunteers are paired with incoming students who were admitted by exception to admissions criteria. Students enroll in a freshman seminar together and are required to meet their respective mentors at least bi-weekly. Initial data indicates that first to second year retention of these students equaled that of regularly admitted students.



CALL Program

Placing the Bachelor of Science in Health Studies online to improve “access” for non-traditional students to return and pursue degrees after stopping out. ULM’s CALL program is one of three collaborative programs between colleges and universities and the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Southern Regional Education Board, and the Consortium for Education, Research and Technology of Louisiana that supports adults without a college degree who want to enroll in postsecondary education.

Math Redesign

Redesigning College Algebra courses to combine traditional lecture classes with online and face-to-face individual tutoring provided in the new Mathematics Resource Center. The redesign incorporates a mastery-based modular approach and sophisticated interactive software which tracks both student effort and progress.


For More Information Contact:
Jackie Tisdell