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Colleges Could Get Financial Awards For Low-Income Graduates

Colleges Could Get Financial Awards For Low-Income Graduates

State officials in New Mexico have come up with an idea to encourage universities and two-year colleges to ensure that at-risk students graduate: pay bonuses to schools based on the number of such students earning degrees.
The proposal developed by the state Commission on Higher Education (CHE) staff would encourage colleges to create programs that help students finish their degrees, said Dr. Letitia Chambers, CHE’s executive director.
“We could face significant labor shortages if we don’t increase the number of students who are graduating,” she said.
The proposal went before the commission last month at its meeting at the Valencia campus of the University of New Mexico in Los Lunas. If the commission approves, it would be cleared for legislation to be developed if needed, said Janet Wise, a spokeswoman for the commission.
An estimated 67 percent of new jobs created by 2010 will require some higher education, Chambers said.
The Legislature would have to approve money to back the idea. The proposal calls for $7 million next fall for colleges to develop ways to improve retention and graduation rates for low-income students.
Money would be awarded to schools by 2007 based on student performance. Chambers said the Legislature would have to decide the bonus amount.
One of the criteria in the proposal is low-income students, defined as those who receive federal Pell grants, which are based on financial need.
The proposal would pay a bonus for each low-income student who enrolls as a sophomore, and reward schools that recruit transfer students who have earned an associate’s degree at a branch campus or community college. Schools would be rewarded for each associate’s degree graduate who enrolls in a bachelor’s degree program.
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute’s (TVI) planning director, Kathy Winograd, said the proposal encourages schools to give more attention and resources to low-income students, who “have the hardest time staying in school because of other complex issues in their lives.”
About 32 percent of TVI students are eligible for Pell grants, she said. 

The Associated Press

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