The University of Maine System recently implemented the “Make the Grade” Student Success Initiative which will provide a free three-credit course to first-year students that fail a course during their first semester of college.
First-year students often struggle for many different reasons. The first semester of college can be challenging for some as they may be living far away from home, attempting to balance multiple jobs or simply because it is a change of pace.
“Make the Grade” will attempt to offset the number of first-year students who are faced with the decision of dropping out after a challenging first semester. The pilot initiative was largely supported by the University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Molloy as he set a goal to increase the number of students that stay in school and decrease the number of students that decide to leave University of Maine System campuses. “Make the Grade” is a part of a larger student outreach campaign, known as “Maine Values You.” This student outreach campaign focuses on providing Maine college students an affordable, world-class education from the state’s public universities.
According to the system’s website, “only 44% of first-year Maine public university students who fail a course in their first semester return for the start of the next academic year.” In the fall of 2018, first-year students who failed a course were thought to be more than twice as likely not to return for the next academic period when compared to their peers that did not fail a course.
This free course will save in-state students approximately $780 that they would typically pay for a three-credit class.
This policy was announced at the end of the fall semester’s finals week, on Friday, Dec. 20 and will be put into practice at the University of Maine System’s seven campuses across the state. At the beginning of the spring semester, students that meet the criteria will be contacted about the program.
All seven of the campuses have slightly different eligibility requirements for participants of the initiative. Each university will experiment with unique approaches to offer services that will aid their individual students and their specific needs.
The flagship UMaine Orono campus as well as UMaine Machias have decided that they will reach out to eligible students at the beginning of the semester and these students will be given a tuition waiver that they will have up to one year to use on a course based on their individual academic needs. These students will also be given a mentor, which could be an associate dean or staff member in the student affairs office that they will meet with regularly to discuss their trajectory for degree completion.
According to the University of Maine System website, UMaine’s Orono campus “is committed to the success of its students and research shows that learners who take the time to connect with staff within their academic units and in student life have a greater chance of finding a major that motivates them and compels them forward toward their preferred careers.”
In comparison, UMaine Augusta (UMA) will provide eligible students with a “Make the Grade” grant for the opportunity to retake one class that is four credits or less. Students eligible for this grant must have earned a grade lower than a D+, or an L or WF, during their first semester of college, in the fall of 2019. UMA will cover the tuition cost for this class to be taken during the spring semester of 2020, and the student will be responsible for covering the fees associated with the course.
The University of Maine System, along with educators around the state, hope that initiatives like this will help retain students who have potential in order to allow them the opportunity to get the best education possible. Through supporting students financially, UMaine hopes to see an increase in student success and satisfaction.