Graduation rates. It’s a topic that comes up frequently at meetings of UWM’s African American Faculty and Staff Council (AAFSC). The group’s members want to raise graduation rates among African American students and close the college-completion gap between black and white students at UWM.
Recently, they came up with one solution: a scholarship designed to help people finish out their last year at UWM. “As representatives of UWM, we wanted to demonstrate our commitment to the students we interact with on a daily basis,” says Diana Borders, assistant director of business services in the School of Education and co-chair of the AAFSC scholarship committee.
Why give scholarships at the end of the college experience? “Some students find it difficult to complete their degree in four years, and the financial aid funds they receive can run out before they finish,” she says. “Students in their final year at UWM have proven their commitment and desire to graduate, and with a bit of financial assistance, the odds of them getting to the graduation finish line are extremely high.”
The reaction among AAFSC members has been positive, and many have contributed to the fund. “Our members now act as foot soldiers, asking campus donors and community members to contribute to the scholarship program,” says Abigail Amissah-Arthur, assistant dean of the College of Health Sciences and co-chair of the AAFSC scholarship committee.
The AAFSC has partnered with the African-American Alumni Chapter (AAAC), a group that has also been exploring ways to provide financial assistance to those near graduation. Borders adds, “The collaboration between AAFSC and AAAC will help us reach our shared goal of increasing the number of students who walk across the stage at commencement, ready to embark on their careers.”