UofM President M. David Rudd Testifies Before Congress About College Completion

Pres. Rudd shares successful initiatives that have improved retention and completion rates among vulnerable students

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a hearing Thursday before the House Committee on Education and Labor's Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, University of Memphis President David Rudd shared examples of successful programs and initiatives that the institution has implemented to raise higher retention and graduation rates for vulnerable student populations.

"It's an honor to share examples of the work underway at the University of Memphis to help address barriers to access and encourage greater completion rates for our students," said Rudd. "We've worked diligently to identify and develop solutions for the greatest challenges facing our students. I'm proud of the progress we have made and hope our efforts can inform and inspire federal policymakers as they explore legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act."

Rudd said in his testimony that "the challenges facing today's college students are well known, with concerns about college costs, student loan debt and return on investment representing a recurring theme nationally. The University of Memphis has an important role to play in addressing these issues and ensuring our students can access an affordable, high-quality education that prepares them for success – both in career and in life."

Rudd shared several examples of programs at the University of Memphis that are helping more students successfully earn a degree, including:

• UMRF Ventures is a private company launched by the UofM Foundation. According to Rudd, "The single goal of the company was to create jobs that paid well enough that students could work fewer hours while also gaining meaningful work experience." UMRF Ventures partners with local employers like FedEx, St. Jude and International Paper and currently employs over 300 students with wages between $15-25 per hour.

• The Academic Coaching for Excellence (ACE) Program provides academic coaching and psychosocial support for students on academic warning. "Just five hours of intervention in the ACE program more than doubled the retention rate for students placed on academic warning, with participants returning to 'good standing' at a rate eight times higher than non-participants," Rudd said.

• The Memphis Advantage Scholarship Program provides targeted scholarship dollars and mentor support for male African-American students. As a result of the program, Rudd said, "Overall African-American male six-year graduation rates have improved dramatically over the past five years, ranging from 36% to 46%, in contrast to previous trends in the high teens to mid-20s less than a decade ago."

• A newly-created Office of First-Generation Student Success provides consolidated and coordinated delivery of mentorship, leadership and support programs specifically crafted for first-generation students. Rudd said the initiative has already "had a demonstrated positive effect on several hundred students across campus, with the opportunity to expand to over 1,000 students in the coming years."

• The Finish Line Program aims to help students who stopped-out of college with more than 90 credit hours completed, or less than a year left to graduation. "Finish Line helps the student develop an individualized program integrating face-to-face, online and hybrid classes, along with experiential learning credit," Rudd said, noting that the program has received national awards and attention.

To read Rudd's written testimony, click here. For an archived live stream of the committee hearing, visit https://edlabor.house.gov/.