The Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) announced today that it will begin a financial incentive program for incoming freshmen for the fall 2017 semester that will reward students for attaining their bachelor’s degree in four years (eight semesters) or less. Students who accomplish this will be rebated tuition for their senior year, earning a 25% savings on their tuition. Because IAIA includes books in tuition costs, the books required for their senior year classes will also be free if they meet the criteria of the program. To qualify, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen students will need to take a minimum of 15 college credit hours each semester, meet the program requirements, remain in good academic and disciplinary standing, and sign an agreement for admission into the program.
“Our priority is to promote student success and this innovative program creates financial incentives that encourage students to complete their degrees in a more timely fashion,” says Dr. Robert Martin, president of IAIA. Indeed, studies have shown that students who complete their degree program in four years have greater career success than students who take five or more years to finish. Students who don’t complete their program in four years are less likely to receive their degree for a variety of reasons.
The program is known nationally as “15 to Finish,” and has been implemented in a number of colleges across the country. It is modeled after a University of Hawai’i program that experienced a significant increase (14.7% in one year) in the number of students who completed at least 15 college credits a semester. Encouraging college students to complete at least 15 credits a semester, or 30 a year, will put them in a position to graduate on time. A key part of the program will be to change the long-standing perception that taking 12 credit hours a semester is enough to graduate on time. For most degree programs at IAIA, a bachelor’s degree requires120 credits.
The primary goal of the campaign is to improve college completion rates at IAIA and reduce the cost and time for degree completion for students participating in the program. The idea is that a full course load helps increase academic success and decrease student costs. Moreover, research indicates that students are more likely to get better grades and improve their financial state, as they are able to get into the workplace sooner. The campaign seeks to provide more options for students’ immediate future. By finishing on time, students have more life choices—they can get an advanced degree, take time off to travel or volunteer, or start working full-time.
Much of the research for this program has been provided by Complete College America. Established in 2009, Complete College America is a national nonprofit with a single mission: to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.
The program will be supported by an advertising campaign targeting prospective IAIA students along with their key influences, which include parents and families, K-12 teachers and staff, and college faculty and staff. A group of recent IAIA graduates who finished their bachelor’s degree in four years are now employed by their tribes in various positions; one is employed by the American Indian College Fund and another has been accepted into the IAIA MFA in Creative Writing Program.