Grand Finish Grant, summer enrollment propel larger graduating classes

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

GVL / Kevin Sielaff

James Kilborn

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Enrollment at Grand Valley State University during the spring/summer semester continues to grow as students choose to expedite their time toward obtaining a degree. Following a recent campaign to encourage students to take additional classes between winter and fall, 8,479 students enrolled, a four percent hike over the previous year’s numbers. 

Mary Eileen Lyon, Associate Vice President of University Communications, highlighted not only the university’s social media campaign in enticing students to enroll for the spring/summer semesters, but also the administrative staff that worked to ensure that students with unique schedules would be accommodated. 

“The deans and administrators worked hard to schedule classes this spring/summer semester,” Lyon said via email. “[They] included online options so students who could benefit from picking up classes would find it convenient to do so.”

In taking the six or 12-week classes, students are afforded the opportunity to obtain their bachelor’s degree faster, often within a four-year period. The Grand Finish Grant, a university grant awarded to students who have completed 90 credit hours at the beginning of their fourth year, works to encourage students to pursue completion of their degree within the four-year period.

Lyon stated that the university is focused on ensuring students succeed in their academic goals and career aspirations, and the Grand Finish Grant assists students who have been working towards a degree to help them finish their schooling. 

Students who complete 15 credit hours during their first term are 26 percent more likely to graduate in four years than those who don’t, while students completing 90 credit hours during their first three years are an astonishing 294 percent more likely to graduate in four years. The grant incentivizes students to continue pursuing their degree in a timely manner. 

“The shorter time it takes to earn a degree, the more money is saved,” Lyon said. “We award the $1,000 Grand Finish grant to students who are on track to graduate in four years as they begin their fourth year. More than 13,500 students have received the grant since the program started in 2011.”

Enrollment for the Spring/Summer semester also highlighted GVSU’s increasing diversity amongst its student body. Students of color marked a 14 percent increase in enrollment over last year’s numbers, as well as an 11 percent increase in students coming from out-of-state or foreign countries. These changes enable students from various backgrounds to contribute their unique perspectives, creating a more enriched learning environment for students and faculty on campus. 

The university set another milestone this past year by awarding the highest number of graduates in its 58-year history. A total of 5,730 degrees were awarded, with bachelor’s degrees accounting for 80 percent of them. Approximately 891 students of color received their degree–15.5 percent of the total graduating class—another university record. Increasing enrollment coupled with increasing graduation rates illustrates a bright future for the university and local communities. 

“The university’s mission is to focus on student success and awarding degrees,” Lyon said. “We want the students who begin at Grand Valley to finish strong.”

Far from the graduating class of 1966-67 with 136 graduates, in the past five decades, Grand Valley has become the third-largest university in Michigan. Once a small commuter school located amongst the cornfields of Allendale, the university now hosts over 25,000 students, all coming from unique backgrounds with a variety of experiences and skills to share with others. The university continues to pursue higher graduation and enrollment rates, enabling students to complete their degrees in a timely and cost-effective manner remains a top priority and will benefit both the university and the workforce, in which the recent college graduates will enter.