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Free degrees - and they're legit

Apr. 22, 2013 - 03:50PM   |  
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Some 60-plus colleges in six states are taking a little-used but seemingly obvious step to boost graduation rates: scouring school databases to track down former students who unknowingly qualify for degrees.

Known as Project Win-Win, the effort has helped community colleges and four-year schools in Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin find hundreds of ex-students who either have earned enough credits to receive associate degrees or are just a few classes shy. The pilot project began several years ago with 35 colleges in six states. As the pilot phase winds down, some participating schools plan to continue the project on their own.

At central Missouri’s Columbia College — a top provider to troops using military tuition assistance — the hunt for students on the verge of graduating worked so well that the school plans to broaden its efforts to find bachelor’s degree candidates just one class short of donning the cap and gown. The private liberal arts college already has awarded nearly 300 retroactive degrees under the program. Now an information technology manager at defense contractor Raytheon, 34-year-old Air Force veteran Corey Manuel was happy to hear about receiving an automatic degree from Columbia College.

He took his classes at a Denver-area branch campus and said his educational journey includes nearly 200 credits from five schools. Nonetheless he still craves the credential he was too busy to pick up along the way.

Another top TA provider, Virginia’s Tidewater Community College, awarded 34 degrees and convinced 15 more students to return to campus from its initial pool of 651 prospects.

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