By the time students enter their last year of university studies, research indicates many have exhausted financial aid and depleted personal education savings accounts. The mounting pressure of facing completion costs with little to no financial aid can lead students to withdraw before completing their degree, thus falling short during their “last mile”.
Small financial awards or completion grants are intended to help students who – absent the financial assistance – might drop out despite being close to finishing their degree. This approach to ensuring students complete their degree has proven successful at various universities throughout the country, including Florida International University (FIU) where Dr. Bridgette Cram, Assistant Vice President, Academic and Student Affairs, oversees student success and retention strategies. While mainstream completion grants offer students the means to overcome an immediate financial need, most do not provide lessons on financial literacy and budget management. FIU’s approach intends to not only close the gap between financial need and degree attainment, but also empower students to graduate having received valuable money management lessons. “This is a high-touch approach that is not just about the grant itself,” explained Dr. Cram. “The value-add we provide are the wrap-around services, including financial literacy coaching.”
Since establishment of the Helios Last Mile Scholarship at Florida International University, a total of $178,619.03 dollars has been awarded to 180 students. The average award is nearly $1,000. “Student success is not only about access to college, but also completion of a degree. Helios proudly partnered with FIU to establish the Helios Last Mile Scholarship to ensure students remain committed to their education, especially once they are close to completion,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation.
In addition to the Helios Last Mile Scholarship, Helios Education Foundation has partnered with FIU on impactful initiatives such as the Talent Development Network and Fostering Panther Pride, programs focused on ensuring more first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students experience postsecondary success.