Great Lakes Seeks Ideas to Help Near Completers Finish Degrees

It happens every year, in colleges and universities across the country.

Students within striking distance of completing their college studies and walking across the stage to receive a diploma end up dropping courses or withdrawing from college altogether. The reasons are numerous—maybe the stress of that last calculus course, the high costs of books and supplies, the stress of balancing school and family life, and more.

Regardless of the reason, the result is the same. Students who have completed the majority of their degree requirements stop short of graduation and leave school. By this time, many will have amassed a crushing amount of student debt, and their job prospects without degrees will only diminish the hope of repaying that money.

If a college or university has an idea for reducing the number of near-graduates who drop out of college without completing, a leading higher education funder wants to hear them. Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation is accepting applications for its College Completion Grant, a new initiative that solicits ideas from the colleges to address the issues that prevent many near-completers from crossing the college graduation finish line.

We’ve written a lot about Great Lakes in this space, and we are big fans of this funder and its work around college readiness and completion. For the College Completion Grant, the funder wants to hear from nonprofit two- and four-year colleges in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Grants are available for up to $200,000 to support the planning, introduction, and implementation of interventions over the period extending from January 2017 through July 1, 2019.

Be forewarned, however: Just coming up with an idea that sounds good will not cut it. Great Lakes expects applicants to assess their own situations surrounding near-completers. Interested colleges should analyze their own data to identify disparities in degree completion by underserved student populations, identify root causes of non-completion and then propose a strategy to remove these barriers.

More information about Great Lakes’ College Completion Grant can be found here. Interested schools also can contact Alex Gagnon, program manager, at