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WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Like many colleges and universities around the United States, the University of Memphis recognized that a segment of its student population needed additional supports and pathways to drive higher degree completion rates. In response to this need, the University's Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning implemented the Finish Line program, which incorporates, among many options, open online courses from Saylor Academy to help students achieve their degrees despite financial and other challenges.
The program targets students who previously attended the University of Memphis and completed 90 or more credit hours but had to suspend their studies for various reasons. Typically, the primary reason for withdrawal for a student so far along in the degree pipeline is that they have run out of financial aid and often need to go to work to help support a family. In some cases, "life" simply gets in the way. While many intend to return the following semester, one semester away from school turns into five years before they know it, as there never seems to be a good time to return.
Memphis began contacting these students to offer them low cost pathways to return to the University to complete their degrees, including suggesting select Saylor Academy courses. For the Saylor courses, administrators collaborated with faculty to create a course review rubric used to determine if the courses and assessments provided students with the ability to demonstrate college level learning. Upper level electives were of particular need and we were pleased to gain favorable reviews from a skeptical (at first) faculty for several courses.
"Our faculty review and approval of these Saylor courses was a game changer for our program," says Tracy Robinson, Director of Innovative Academic Initiatives for the University of Memphis. "It is one thing to contact a student and encourage them to finish their degree. It is an entirely different conversation when you can offer them a low-cost option to complete their remaining requirements."
In the program's initial phase, students have already saved over $150,000 on Saylor courses alone and the Finish Line program has produced 123 graduates.
Aniysha Tate completed four of Saylor Academy's online, self-paced courses that had been pre-assessed by faculty members through the Experiential Learning Credit program. Working with the Finish Line team, Aniysha graduated earning the bachelor's degree she thought was just out of her reach.
▶ Video: Aniysha Tate shares her Finish Line story with The University of Memphis
Christy Taylor shares a similar story. Christy was forced to halt her studies when she ran out of financial aid. She had been out of school two years when she learned of the Finish Line program. Christy completed three Saylor courses to help her earn her degree. She tells us: "I am so thankful for the Finish Line program, the Saylor program and the two coming together to help me become a graduate."
"We are truly excited that this program has shown early successes and we fully expect it can be improved upon and expanded at Memphis and beyond," adds Jeff Davidson, Director of Strategic Relationships at Saylor Academy. "It's exciting to see how it has impacted these students, who likely would not yet have achieved their degrees otherwise."
Students have returned to University of Memphis to complete degrees across a range of majors including Philosophy, Biology, Earth Sciences, Child Development, Management and Interdisciplinary Studies. The Finish Line program is set to expand this academic year and we look forward to working with the University to help many more future graduates!
About The University of Memphis
The Finish Line Program (www.memphis.edu/innovation/finishline), a project of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at The University of Memphis, targets students who previously attended the University of Memphis and have completed 90 or more credit hours but have regrettably had to abandon their dreams of completing a college degree.
About Saylor Academy
Saylor Academy (www.saylor.org) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to open education to all through open online courses and twenty-first century credentials. Since 2012, Saylor Academy's credit-recommended courses have helped students overcome barriers of cost and time to complete college degrees.
CONTACT: Jeff Davidson Director of Strategic Relationships Saylor Academy jeff [dot] davidson [at] saylor [dot] org (202) 333 4005