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UNCF Helps Power HBCUs to Advance Degree Completion: The Value of Implementing a Successful Intersession Using Course Sharing

Published by Edward Spears, MBA, PMP, Senior Director, Partner Success on May 10, 2023 1:16:13 PM

The SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium, powered by Acadeum, was formed in March 2022 and is a partnership between the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and Acadeum to provide a platform among the region’s historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions to share courses. The primary goal is to increase equity and access to rich coursework, credit recovery, and course offering frequency that may not be available to students on their own campus or during the terms when students need them. The collaborative consortium has quickly put course sharing to work providing greater opportunities to meet students’ needs along the path to graduation. The SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium has grown from the inaugural 9 members to 24 participating institutions and has already helped students access hundreds of courses.

Removing Barriers to Student Success

For many students across the HBCU landscape, financing a degree is one of the greatest challenges. Often, student funding is consumed by housing and tuition for traditional fall and spring semesters, leaving little to no opportunity for students to pursue additional course offerings during winter or summer semesters. However, access to a winter or summer semester can be the difference in on-time graduation, especially when the course offerings are funded. Grant funding is a game changer that makes it possible for students to take advantage of additional courses offered during intersession semesters. Understanding course sharing’s potential, realizing the strength of the SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium community, and knowing that funding would make the difference in students graduating has motivated Acadeum to support HBCUs to secure additional funding opportunities to utilize course sharing.

With a mission to help more students finish their degrees, institutions in the consortium and Acadeum collaborated with the UNCF Degree Completion Aid Funds. As a result, UNCF awarded five grants to HBCUs to support graduating seniors with 2022 winter term enrollment. This collaboration gave students access to courses offered outside the regular term and positioned them to graduate on time.

SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium institutions embody the power of community, collaboration, and care. Here are some of the impactful ways the UNCF funding and course sharing have successfully helped students and institutions.

Stories of Impact from the Collaborative SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium

Allen University

At Allen University, as at other HBCU campuses around the country, there is a strategic push being intentional about retention and persistence. To ensure success on these initiatives, leaders at the university, such as Dr. Gee Sigman, associate vice president for Institutional Planning and Assessment, are strategizing to support students both collectively and individually. “We are thinking through how to provide support and wrap-around services to make sure that students not only begin at Allen University, but they can complete and earn a degree,” Dr. Sigman said. “Seventy percent of our students are first-generation college students, and 80% of our students are Pell Grant dependent,” Dr. Sigman noted, “and so when we approached Acadeum, our focus became helping students finish what they started.”

Prior to partnering with Acadeum and receiving the UNCF grant, a winter term was not offered at Allen, due to the cost of additional courses. “This new opportunity created a winter term for our students,” Dr. Sigman says, “and many of our students who participated in the winter term would not have graduated without it.” In fact, if it were not for the UNCF funding that enabled students to enroll in consortial courses, ten students would not be graduating on time in the spring of 2023.

“We can’t thank UNCF enough for supporting us and our initiatives toward retention and completion,” Dr. Sigman said. “The financial implications are hugely beneficial for students, and we are so grateful for UNCF, SREB, and the HBCU-MSI Consortium. What we have built is a culture of care. It doesn’t matter if it’s Allen University or directly across the street at Benedict College, we are all committed to student success.”

Benedict College

One of the early leaders and advocates of the SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium, Benedict College, has been using the UNCF funds to think about ways to bring down the cost of attendance. “When you think about proactive advising and consider the value of an intersession–a maymester, summer session, or winter session–you see an opportunity to realize an academic benefit but also a financial one,” Jamila S. Lyn, director of Specialized Programming, said.

In order to successfully utilize an intersession term, Ms. Lyn is conscious of a number of challenges that inform her student-centered approach, including unique home-life situations, varying financial dependencies, and what it means for a student to take or retake a course. “If we talk about HBCU students, we know that the financial roadblock is often the reason that students stop out or drop out,” she stated. “Together, UNCF, Acadeum, and the SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium are tackling two important issues at once.”

Since collaborating with UNCF, Benedict quadrupled their enrollment for the 2022 winter term, with 49 total students enrolled in consortial courses. “We’ve maintained our overall success rate (85%) even while scaling these course opportunities. We’re very proud to be above the national success rate average,” Ms. Lyn stated.

Jarvis Christian University

Jarvis Christian University is always looking for new and innovative ways to support its students. “The UNCF funding was an exciting opportunity in two ways,” recalled Dr. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “For one, we would not have to pay as many faculty to teach the winter session, and secondly, we could assist students who are really stressed out because they need just one more class to graduate.” As such, this funding presented a new opportunity for Jarvis: the specific courses students needed to graduate could now be offered during the winter session. “This funding along with the ability to use course sharing gives students an opportunity to finish and move on with their lives, without additional cost or having to wait another semester or another year for the class they need to complete their degree,” Dr. Pruitt said.

To date, the UNCF funding has enabled five Jarvis students, the majority of whom are adult learners, to take consortial courses and complete their degrees. “One thing Acadeum has really helped us do is keep students moving. They don’t have to wait until a course is offered by the university to take it and that impacts retention and persistence,” Dr. Pruitt explained. “These partnerships have been a blessing for us and allow us to bless our students as well.”

Promoting a Culture of Care
In addition to Jarvis Christian University, Allen University, and Benedict College, Lemoyne-Owen College and Lane College have also been the recipient of funding from UNCF, altogether empowering 86 students to continue the path to earn their diplomas.

Ultimately, UNCF funding has opened the door for five SREB HBCU-MSI Consortium members to proactively advise, enroll, and support students committed to completing their degree. As institutions within this consortium enter and maintain the course sharing exchange, the culture of care among these colleges and universities, as described by Dr. Sigman, is set to expand even further.

As Ms. Lyn stated, “The power of UNCF and course sharing is not only helping with student progression, it’s also helping us to embrace opportunities to extend student support year-round.”

Want to learn more about course sharing?

Download the Academic Leaders’ guide to course sharing.

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