NAU named as finalist for the APLU’s Degree Completion Award

Campus overview

Northern Arizona University is one of only four universities in the country to be named a finalist in the Association of Public and Land-grant University’s (APLU) 2020 Degree Completion Award.

This award, which is given annually, identifies, recognizes and rewards institutions that use innovative approaches to improve degree completion while maintaining a high quality of education. The winner will be announced at the APLU’s annual meeting from Nov. 9-11.

“NAU has made the support of first-generation and underserved students a priority for many years, and I’m pleased that these efforts are being recognized on the national level,” said President Rita Cheng. “I have seen how higher education transforms lives, and we are going above and beyond to make sure all students have access to a high-quality education, and that they are successful in competing their degree and fulfilling their educational aspirations.”

NAU’s multidimensional strategy includes efforts on boosting student success, with a particular focus on ensuring first-generation students have the support they need to graduate. In 2014, NAU 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.

This strategy includes the creation of 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 increase enrollment while serving historically underserved populations, NAU has increased the number of bachelors’ degrees they award by more 1,500 each year.

“It is such a tremendous honor to be recognized,” said K. Laurie Dickson, vice provost of curriculum, assessment, and accreditation. “I’m especially excited to build on our momentum and energy to engage in additional first-generation equity work and bolster our equity-minded practices.”

This recognition is part of APLU’s nationwide work in advancing college access, equity and degree completion through the association’s Powered by Publics effort and its 130 member schools, who have pledged to increase access, eliminate the achievement gap and allow for hundreds of thousands more students to earn degrees by 2025. NAU is joined by other finalists California State University, Sacramento; Kent State University; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Public universities have been working hard on an array of multidimensional interventions to increase degree completion,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “California State University, Sacramento, Kent State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have put in place innovative approaches that are helping to ensure more of their students graduate. We’re thrilled to spotlight them as this year’s Degree Completion Award finalists, which have made critical strides in boosting completion and changing more students’ lives.”

NAU Communications