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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Assured of a higher grad rate

The Arizona Assurance Scholars Program’s first group of students, slated to graduate in May 2012, is expected to have a higher graduation rate than the UA’s overall.

According to Arezu Corella, director of Arizona Assurance and the assistant director of Academic Success and Achievement at the UA, 68 percent of the first students to enter the program in the fall of 2008 are still enrolled and are considered seniors.

“But this does not mean all 68 percent are graduating in four years,” Corella said. “We don’t have a definitive number just because not everyone has filled out their graduation checks, but based on things that we have looked at, it is definitely going to be higher than the average.”

Corella went on to say the average four-year graduation rate for UA students is about 34 percent.

Started by the former UA President Robert Shelton in 2008, the Arizona Assurance Scholars Program provides financial assistance to Arizona high school students coming to the UA through the combination of Pell Grants, scholarships and funding. In order to qualify students must have a grade point average of a 3.0 or higher and come from a household that earns less than $42,400 a year.

Stephanie Montano, a senior studying business management and mathematics, is a part of the program’s first group of students.

“It’s weird to think that I am in the first cohort and how big (the program) is now,” Montano said. “It kind of reinforces the idea of them investing in your education and making sure they get a good outcome.”

Throughout all four years of the program, Arizona Assurance students have an assigned mentor and can participate in a series of workshops and classes that teach them how to be successful in college and prepare them on what to do after graduation.

When Montano receives her degree, she plans on going to graduate school for education and eventually earn her doctorate. This is a goal that seemed possible to her, she said, thanks to Arizona Assurance’s student support services over the last four years.

“The whole point is they are not just trying to get you in or get you graduated, but they want to make sure you have plans set up afterwards and know what you want to accomplish,” Montano said.

Corella said she thinks one of the reasons the program expects a higher graduation rate is because of these services. When comparing the retention and graduation rates to past students who would have qualified for Arizona Assurance had it been in place before 2008, Corella said Arizona Assurance’s senior retention rate was still considerably high.

“It seems in that by comparison, having the funding structure we have for Arizona Assurance has helped these students continue at a higher rate than students before who looked similar,” Corella said.

Serena Valle, a sophomore studying Spanish and a member of Arizona Assurance, said the program has given her the chance to stay involved in the campus community and helped her set a goal to graduate and prepare for a life after college.

“After learning what Arizona Assurance is and what they do to help their students, it kind of gave me the goals to want to aim higher,” Valle said, “to not want to settle for less and know that I can push the mark and go a little further.”

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