Project Win-Win Granting Associate Degrees

Rachel Pukall

The Institute of Higher Education Policy and the Lumina Foundation have funded a grant to assist institutions in identifying former students who have invested time and money into college, but left before completing their degree.

Project Win-Win, a program that the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point incorporates, uses data collecting techniques to track down people who have dropped out or left college early, while meeting credentials for an associate degree.

“Project Win-Win is really aptly named because it represents a very good thing for both the institution and for those students who have benefited by receiving the associate degrees they earned. As an institution, UW-Stevens Point wants to see our students benefit from their experiences here,” said Provost Greg Summers.

Project Win-Win works with 64 colleges and universities in nine U.S. states. Colleges and institutions conduct a database analysis to remove students who have transferred and graduated somewhere else. The remaining students are checked to see if they are eligible for anassociate degree or if they are close to completion. Students are then contacted and awarded an associate degree or given information on how to complete their degree.

The study ran from October 2010 through August 2013. Other universities in Wisconsin that participated were UW-Platteville, UW-Green Bay and the UW College System.

“On May 19, 2012, UWSP awarded 143 associate degrees at the spring Commencement Ceremony,” said Dan Kellogg, the registrar at UWSP. “Travis Turauski, a commercial roofer from Wisconsin, and Jordan Zimmermann, a starting pitcher for the Washington Nationals, were among the people to receive a degree.”

Over the last three years, Project Win-Win has helped more than 4200 college dropout students receive an associate degree and over 800 potential students returned to school to complete their degree.

“Our primary mission is to help students earn their bachelors degrees, but certainly if we have students leave for some reason we want to ensure that they receive the associate degree if they have earned the credits to do so,” Summers said. “If they are close to earning this credential, we want to be sure they are aware of this possibility and how important it may be to their future success, whether that success comes from getting a job or returning someday to go on for a bachelors degree.”

Kellogg took the time to look through student records from fall 2000 to spring 2010 in order to locate students who were qualified to receive an associate degree and for students who were near completion.

Kellogg had some trouble trying to locate students because many of them have moved around over the years or have gotten married and changed their last names.

“The opportunity to notify a student that our files show they are eligible for an associate’s degree has been a great. It has been a win-win for the student, and a win-win for the university,” Kellogg said.

Kellogg thinks that both four- year institutions and community colleges should re-evaluate their policies for earning an associate degree and determine if they have created requirements that hinder the process for students that drop out or transfer.

“I’m not sure it’s right for every university, but it’s certainly a good fit for our mission and the students we serve at UW-Stevens Point,” Summers said.

The university is now considering steps on how to use the concept of Project Win-Win to contact students who have left the university and whose academic records also qualify them for an associate degree on an annual basis.

“I have asked our Academic Affairs Committee in the Faculty Senate to consider how best to institutionalize this effort so that it becomes a permanent aspect of our offerings. This will involve improvements in how to advise students about the possibility of earning an associate degree, especially those students who leave or consider leaving the university,” Summers said.

The effort will also involve decisions about how and when to contact students who have left and might consider coming back for the handful of credits they need to complete their associate degree.

“We’re very happy to have participated in Project Win-Win as a pilot institution. The success we demonstrated has been influential as other UW campuses around the state consider their own participation in the program,” Summers said. 

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