NAU selected as APLU’s national 2020 Degree Completion Award winner

Student walking across the stage at commencement

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named Northern Arizona University the winner of its 2020 Degree Completion Award during a ceremony at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. The annual award works to identify, recognize and reward institutions that employ innovative and evidence-based approaches to improve degree completion while ensuring educational quality.

“As a first-generation student myself, I understand the challenges first-generation students experience, and that is why I am so proud of all of NAU’s efforts to help bridge this gap,” said NAU President Rita Cheng. “I am grateful to APLU for recognizing the work of our faculty and staff in helping make first-generation success a reality.”

NAU has led a multidimensional effort to boost student success, with a particular emphasis on helping first-generation students complete their degrees. In 2014, the university created the Office of First-Generation Programs to oversee multiple efforts to minimize barriers for these students and champion a cultural transformation throughout the institution. NAU also introduced a university-wide student success and predictive analytics platform and coordinated efforts to support just-in-time outreach that address student needs.

The university’s overall four-year degree completion rate has increased by 12 percentage points while its six-year graduation rate has increased 7.2 percentage points. Coupled with its efforts to grow enrollment with increased percentages of historically underserved populations, NAU has seen an increase in the completion rate for their students of color by 14.5 percentage points. Due to its efforts, NAU has increased the number of bachelors’ degrees they award annually by more than 1,500.

“We applaud Northern Arizona University for its work to advance student success, equity and degree completion,” APLU President Peter McPherson said. “Northern Arizona University has invested in equity, student success, and degree completion and students have benefitted significantly from the university’s efforts. We’re excited to spotlight their work so the higher education community can learn from it.”

The Degree Completion Award is open to all APLU members and is one part of APLU’s robust work to advance college access, equity, and completion. Northern Arizona University is also one of more than 125 institutions working in the association’s Powered by Publics effort, which convenes collaborating institutions within 16 transformation clusters and works to solve different pieces of the student success puzzle. Collectively, the schools have pledged to aim to increase college access, eliminate the achievement gap, and award hundreds of thousands more degrees by 2025.

A panel of reviewers examined the applications to determine the finalists. The other finalists for the 2020 Degree Completion Award were: California State University, Sacramento; Kent State University; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Watch NAU’s video about this award.