The class of 2019 will be the last to receive Cleveland State University’s nationally recognized graduation credit.
The university-driven initiative, officially known as the Graduation Incentive Plan, gives undergraduates who successfully complete 30 credit hours during the academic year a two percent tuition rebate and $200 book credit.
The rebate, which amounts to around $185, is applied directly to student accounts at the start of the academic year.
The book credit can be used during the fall, spring or summer semesters at Viking Outfitters, the university’s official bookstore.
The award is given for up to four consecutive years, with year four’s tuition and bookstore credits being applied to future graduate enrollment at Cleveland State.
Undergraduates were required to maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average to receive the reward.
Initially the incentive only covered qualified students enrolled during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic calendars. School officials elected to extend the much praised benefits for another year.
It was a decision heavily influenced by the June 30 passing of the state budget, which took place after many new freshman had made their acceptance decisions.
“We will honor it for one more year because we felt a commitment to the students,” Cleveland State University spokesman Rob Spademan told Cleveland.com in August.
Cleveland State spent $1.2 million on the plan, and received no additional funding from the state of Ohio to carry it out.
The tuition and fees adjustment affected more than 3,300 students last year and 2,000 students during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Around 2,700 students qualified for the incentive this fall, a decrease that is being attributed to the course credit hour reductions that took place during the 2013-2014 school year.
The graduation incentive is aimed at addressing the university’s low graduation rate, which has hovered around 30 percent. That figure is beneath the 59 percent national average, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The school’s desire to increase its own graduation rates has payoffs for itself and its students.
Those enrolled in full-time undergraduate programs save thousands of dollars a year by graduating within the expected four to six years for a traditional bachelor’s degree.
Meanwhile, public universities can receive increased funding based on higher graduation and retention rates.
The university’s plan has yielded immediate results. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the number of students enrolled in a full course load rose to 40 percent — a five percent increase over the previous year, according to the university’s annual Book of Trends.
The incentive also affected Cleveland State’s six-year graduation rate, which has increased from 31 to 39 percent since 2013.
As of now, no announcements have been made about the continuation of the incentive plan beyond 2016.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 5, 2015 issue of The Cleveland Stater.