Theobald unveils four-year grad plan

President Theobald pledged a multi-million dollar scholarship initiative that will pay qualifying low-and-middle-income students to reduce their off-campus working hours as part of a larger four-year graduation plan released Monday, Feb. 3.

The university will give $4,000 to 500 students in each incoming class beginning this fall, creating a program that will spend $8 million per year in total funds by 2018.

The “Fly in 4” program’s scholarship component is the first of its kind among universities nationwide to focus student attention on academics rather than non-academic work to pay off the rising cost of tuition.

The program represents an outgrowth of the first of Theobald’s commitments in his inaugural address delivered on Oct. 18, in which he called “suffocating student debt” the foremost problem facing Temple’s role as Philadelphia’s public university.

Theobald has consistently stated that four-year graduation rates are one of the leading factors in controlling student debt, and in an interview yesterday, said he would like to see Temple’s four-year graduation rate grow above 50 percent in five years. The current graduation rate is 43 percent.

Theobald said appropriate cuts would be made annually to the university’s budget to account for the scholarships.

A second aspect of the program, a four-year graduation guarantee, will apply to students who receive the scholarship as well as others who commit to a plan organized with academic advisors. If students are unable to graduate on time due to courses not being available when needed, the university will cover the tuition cost of the remaining credits. The guarantee and scholarship will also apply to five-year bachelorette programs.

Students who form agreements with the university will have to meet with an academic advisor at least once each semester, register for classes during early registration and move up in class standing every year.

The average student at Temple works more than 15 hours a week in off-campus jobs, according to the university. Theobald estimated that more than 10,000 students work part-time or full-time to support themselves.

“The goal is not only to lower debt, but also have kids have a better educational experience at Temple because they’re not having to split their time between off-campus work and their studies,” Theobald said.

The “Fly in 4” program will go into effect with the Class of 2018 and the university will add 500 recipients to the scholarship every year until the total number reaches 2,000. Current students will not be eligible for the scholarship or four-year guarantee.

Internships, whether paid or unpaid, will not be included in a student’s working hours for the purposes of the scholarship. The scholarship applies to fall and spring semesters and will not cover summer classes.

Four-year guarantees have been instituted at several other universities in the United Sates. In Fall 2012, the University of Buffalo instituted its “Finish in 4” program that, like Temple’s, offers freshmen the option of signing a pledge to follow an outlined four-year path, which if hampered due to a class not being offered, will pay for a student’s fifth year.

The University of Buffalo added 30,000 extra seats in high-demand courses to finish its promise. A Temple spokesperson stressed that much of the administrative aspects of Temple’s “Fly in 4” programs have yet to be decided.

While the “Fly in 4” program plan is to provide scholarship money to 2,000 students out of the university’s general fund, Theobald said that an increase in alumni giving and donation could expand the scope of the scholarship campaign.

John Moritz and Marcus McCarthy can be reached at news@temple-news.com. 

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