Continuing the completion grant initiative


Members of the Iowa State Fall 2017 Graduating class gather in Hilton Coliseum Dec 16. The keynote speaker was Kevin Cooney, a 1974 alumnus of Iowa State whose speech focused on friendship and remembering to make your bed.

Annelise Wells

Iowa State will be continuing their completion grant initiative to help students make it to graduation in the fall and spring.

Completion grants are for students who are close to graduating but have run out of financial aid, do not have the ability to get more loans or are out of options to finish their last semester.

“They might be very close, but they will make a decision to step out, to go work, and then hopefully come back,” said President Wendy Wintersteen. “Well often times that just doesn’t happen.”

The initiative behind the completion grants comes from Iowa State’s involvement in the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). The alliance consists of 11 public universities who work together to increase graduation rates across all groups of students.

Georgia State, also a member of the UIA, pioneered the initiative.

“What has been great about this partnership is that the universities are sharing what has worked for them and what are the strategies that have made a difference,” Wintersteen said. 

The project was funded by a $4 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Great Lakes Higher Education Corp. Of the $4 million, Iowa State was given $167,907 to be awarded over three years.

In its initial semester last fall, $31,794 in grants were awarded to 60 students, at an average of about $530 per student.

For the second round of grants, $41,443 in awards were offered to 96 students in the spring to register for classes this fall, at an average of about $432 per student.

Last year, the Iowa State Athletic Department made a one million dollar commitment to be used towards completion grants over the span of five years.

“That to me is another example of, how do you really target these limited dollars for where they can do the most good,” Wintersteen said.

In the fall of 2017, the criteria to qualify for a grant included that a student needs to be of senior status, be enrolled and within two semesters of graduation, have a minimum GPA of 2.0, have a debt of $1,000 or less and accepted all financial aid offered to them that year.

Iowa State also requires a student to meet with a staff member in the student loan education office. They can only receive their grant after attending a financial planning session.

“We want to educate them so they can make wise choices with their funds. We needed to have a conversation about how they’d cover a shortfall in the spring because they wouldn’t get the grant again,” Director of financial aid Roberta Johnson said in an interview with Inside Iowa State on May 3.

Historically, scholarships are aimed towards students just starting their college careers, but these grants are geared toward the ending instead, Wintersteen said. 

“The worst situation is a student that has taken on student debt and then doesn’t graduate, so then you don’t have that opportunity to get that return on the investment that you made,” Wintersteen said. “We believe it’s a great investment with a great return, but if you don’t graduate, then we have failed, essentially.”