Colleges trying new ways to keep students from dropping out

“Our students are not sheltered from the economic problems of the country,” said Linda Byrd-Johnson, director of the U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO programs, which help low-income, first-generation and disabled college students.

“These kids are just like everybody else,” she said. “Some of them are struggling to make ends meet.”

The “Dreamkeepers” program that helped Asiimwe — underwritten by the Kresge Foundation, the Lumina Foundation for Education and the Walmart Foundation — assists low-income students facing personal emergencies that could derail their graduation plans.

Payouts average $500 but can be as small as $11 for a bus pass. (The Lumina Foundation is among the funders of The Hechinger Report, which produced this story.)

Many such interventions have not been around long enough to concretely measure their success, but some have.

A case-management system at Cedar Valley College near Dallas has decreased the dropout rate for students considered at risk from 53 percent to 40 percent, the university says.

At Michigan Technological University in the state’s Upper Peninsula, a program started last fall to monitor and support faltering students reduced the number who were on the brink of leaving by 2 percent, according to the university.

Scholarship America, a charity organization that runs Dreamkeepers and other scholarship programs, reports that the proportion of students who stay in school from one semester to the next after getting help from Dreamkeepers is 72 percent, compared with 50 percent for students who don’t receive such help.

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