BATON ROUGE – If you get a call or email from a University of Louisiana System school congratulating you on earning a degree even though you have not been enrolled for years, it is not a scam. The UL System is part of a national initiative called Project Win-Win that identifies students who stopped out but earned enough college credit to merit an Associate’s degree. So far, three UL System schools have identified 750 students eligible to receive a degree.
“Sometimes life gets in the way of completing a university degree. Project Win-Win is an innovative approach to seek out students who are not aware they have earned enough credit to merit a credential. Reconnecting with these former students to award their degrees is a win for the student and a win for the university,” said UL System President Randy Moffett.
Project Win-Win is a subset of the national Access to Success Initiative led jointly by the National Association of System Heads and The Education Trust. The UL System is the only four-year system participating.
“In today’s world, a postsecondary credential is fast becoming the sole pathway to the middle class. But far too often, students seeking a college degree never make it to graduation day, often for reasons far beyond their control,” said Kati Haycock, president of The Education Trust. “The University of Louisiana System is stepping up to do what’s right-not just for the hundreds of students who worked hard to earn and deserve these diplomas, but for the entire state of Louisiana, which is depending on a highly skilled workforce to help the economy rebound and thrive.”
Three of the eight UL System campuses piloted the program: McNeese State University, Northwestern State University and Southeastern Louisiana University.
The universities reviewed data from 2003 forward to find students who were no longer enrolled but who had accumulated over 60 credit hours and might qualify for an Associate’s degree. In total, 750 are eligible to receive a degree and over 1,000 are potentials, meaning they could be eligible or may be short just a few hours from earning a degree.
The universities are actively contacting the students to either award the degree or invite them back to complete the few hours needed to finish the degree. The biggest challenge the campuses have had thus far is convincing students this is not too good to be true.
Already, McNeese awarded 17 degrees to deserving students identified through Project Win-Win this May. Amber Koonce of Sulphur was one of the 17.
Koonce’s struggles with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) led her to withdraw from McNeese’s teaching program in 2008. As a result, the 25-year-old had given up on her goal of earning a degree. That all changed when she received a call from McNeese in April.
“When does a university EVER call a former student and say, ‘Hey, even though you didn’t meet the requirements to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, we know you worked really hard and, through this Project Win-Win, you are eligible to graduate with an associate degree, so we’d like to invite you to your graduation’?” said Koonce.
On May 15, Amber’s faculty advisor and one of her instructors at McNeese, Rose Henny, pushed Koonce’s wheelchair to allow the graduate to receive her diploma from McNeese President Bob Hebert.
“That is what it is all about,” said Moffett. “We know there are other heartwarming stories like this out there, and we look forward to rewarding the efforts of so many students who for whatever reason stopped short of getting their degree.”
EIGHT UNIVERSITIES STRONG: The University of Louisiana System is the largest higher education system in the state enrolling almost 82,000 students at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.